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Table saw industry battles safety device

Table saws are inherently dangerous. A saw blade consists of carbide-tipped disk, spinning at 3,000-5,000 rpm, pulling lumber into the blade as it goes. And too often, the operator's fingers and hands. Sure, most saws come with a "blade guard," but many woodworkers and carpenters remove them, because they impede the use of the saw or cannot be used on certain types of cuts. But saw manufacturers have found that the blade guard is more effective at preventing liability for defective product design lawsuits than they are at protecting a user's fingers.

What is worst is virtually all of these amputations, necessitating multiple surgeries and years of physical therapy to undo some of the damage, are all unnecessary. A device has existed for almost ten years that will stop a saw blade within five milliseconds of detecting contact with the skin of a finger.

The industry's reaction is not really surprising. As it typically of many corporations, they would rather fight a regulation that would save untold suffering, than adopt the SawStop technology. Why? Perhaps because it would eliminate their liability defense that conventional blade guards are "adequate" and force them to pay for workers injured by saw accidents.

SawStop is a perfect example of how building a better mousetrap does not mean the world will beat a path to your door. The industry seems to be more willing to spend millions lobbying Congress and federal regulators, stridently attacking any plan to impose this type of safety device, and millions more on paying defense attorney's fees in vigorous litigation to avoid liability for injuries caused by their saws.

Source: MotherJones.com, "Saws Cut Off 4,000 Fingers a Year. This Gadget Could Fix That," Myron Levin, May 16, 2013

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