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Tablesaw Safety Act Denied in California Senate

Legislation that would have required table-saw manufacturers to install flesh-detecting technology in table saws with blades under 12 inches has not passed in the California State Senate. The Table Saw Safety Act, AB 2218, was introduced  in February, sponsored by Assemblyman Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara), would have required all new table saws manufactured for sale in California after January 1, 2015, to be equipped with a safety device that substantially reduces injury when human skin comes in contact with the blade.  The bill passed the State Assembly by a 64-4 margin and moved ahead in the State Senate on July 3 on a 3-2 vote from the Senate Judiciary Committee. But in August when the bill was brought to the Senate,  Robert Dutton Republican Rancho Cucamonga Senator asked that it be rejected just before the session adjourned for the year. Heavy opposition to the bill was brought by Home Depot, Lowe’s, Sears, The California Chamber of Commerce, The California Manufacturers & Technology Association, The California Business Properties Association, The California Retailers Association plus many other smaller retailers that would be price affected by having a lower cost tablesaw could raise the tablesaw costs in the marketplace if a bill like this would pass. As an alternative, those who oppose the bill want stricter, more aggressive safety education/training and better saw blade guards as the solution. The Power Tool Institute (PTI) is for letting woodworkers purchase whatever they want, but Gass insists that this is not about product choice, this is about safety no matter what or whose product you choose.

Protect people how you want, but protect them…Steve Gass

Stephen Gass who invented the SawStop tablesaw safety device was quoted as saying, “I think that this is very unfortunate for woodworkers in California and the entire woodworking nation. Making the woodworker safer in the hobby or work they love is what SawStop is all about. Injuries produced by tablesaws without member saving technologies cost the consumer ten times the purchase price based on the total retail market.”  Gass lobbied heavily on behalf of the bill, including making political contributions of $46,400 to 21 key legislators, including $2,500 to Williams. Many remarked with allegations of “monopoly” commentary, but Gass insists that, “Other technologies can be invented to make the tablesaw industry safer for the consumer without infringing on his patents. If others cannot come up with their own safety technology, then and only then would they be required to license SawStop’s inventions.”

I spoke with Mr. Gass, and he passionately stated, “There are currently 70 other patents in the cue by non-SawStop companies for other member saving technologies. There have been previous technologies created before SawStop existed. I welcome all of these because the bottom line is healthy woodworking, safety in the shop at all times. Protect people how you want, but protect them. We want to be the best at doing this, but if someone comes along with other technologies, so be it.”

Steve also commented, “They will not give up.” This is just a small battle lost, but the war on safety is the ultimate goal. Making tablesaws safer reduces the consumers medical costs as well. The most recent study by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) indicated that 66,900 people receive emergency room treatment each year for table saw and bench-top related injuries at a cost of $2.3 billion. The annual injury total includes about 3,500 amputations.

This is definitely a hot topic as woodworkers who have lost their digits are more in favor of this type of bill and wished they would have had a SawStop Tablesaw before the injuries occured. Those who have maintained their allegiance to other tablesaw manufacturer’s claim safety is in the hands of the user.

What’s your position? Is there a middle ground? Besides big brother getting in the mix of it, what else do you think should or could be done? One thing is for sure in my opinion. Woodworkers that I have met have always been open to help one another. Given that premise, how can we help one another prevent these serious injuries? Share your input with us.

And while your pondering these ideas, consider that Woodcraft now has a SawStop Professional Cabinet Saw waiting for you online, click on the ad below for more information.

Be sure to stay safe in the shop. Take your time and don’t rush. Woodworking is suppose to be fun, but most of all it’s suppose to be safe!…Frank


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Comments (36)

  1. avatar
    Andy Brownell, September 17, 2012
    I'm a fan of my SawStop contractors saw. i was one of the first to get one over 3 years ago. It still works wonderfully. I can cut through 2" thick maple without bogging down. The quality of the saw is critical to justify the price, but the safety factor tipped the scales for me. I had a hand injury back in 2001 and it wasn't fun. Here is the post I made about my experience. http://brownellfurniture.com/2012/05/13/late-entry-for-shop-safety-week-warning-graphic-hand-injury/ Reply
    • avatar
      frank, September 17, 2012
      OUCH!! Sorry you were hurt, and happy you've got a SawStop. Accidents CAN happen to anyone even the most proficient woodworker, as we are only human. Reply
  2. avatar
    John Morris, September 17, 2012
    I feel the saw is a great tool for those who want a saw with those safety features, it's great!!!! But for those who do not have a saw with the brake, I think the best answer is, use the guards!!!!! I know folks say the guards can be dangerous as well, maybe in some cases. I have an overarm guard that is an excellent compromise, it easily raises up out of the way, or slides to the right or left when your making those extra tall cuts like a a box lid etc. So the old argument that one has to go through hoops to remove the guard is a non argument with an overarm guard. I love my overarm guard, it is in the down position most of the time, but when I do have the tall material going through the saw, it easily moves out of the way, and I know Woodcraft has a good inventory of overarm guards. The Saw Stop is way cool, but if your not ready for one, get the overarm guard! And use it! All the accidents I have witnessed were a direct result of the operator not having the guard in place. Reply
    • avatar
      frank, September 17, 2012
      Good advice John, and thank you for it. Reply
  3. avatar
    Howard Norman, September 17, 2012
    Steve Gass is not an unbiased observer since he has a dog in this fight. Reply
  4. avatar
    Brian K., September 17, 2012
    "Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your doorstep." In the case of Mr. Gass and SawStop, "incase they don't beat a path to your door, bribe a bunch of politicians TO FORCE COMPLIANCE and purchase of your MONOPOLY." I have drooled over his saws, but I don't have $3k to blow on a tool I don't use that often. BUT, I CAN ASSURE THIS, I will not buy a SAWSTOP brand saw after these shenanigans. I'll buy ( and pay MORE if I have to) from another company to spite GREEDY Mr. Gass. Just another example of what is wrong with our country. A well intentioned entrepreneur corrupted by attorneys. Maybe we should all use attorneys as push sticks. I have some 1/8" veneer strips I would like to cut. Reply
    • avatar
      Gene Howe, September 18, 2012
      Doubly agree! Reply
      • avatar
        Rafael Lorenzo, February 2, 2013
        It is just so typical. Nothing can be done in this country without having to bribe politicians, and the cost of that is .passed on to the consumer. I will also not buy a SawStop machine now that I saw this blog about the company "donating" money to these corrupt "Public Servants".21 of them in the same place, how convenient. Reply
    • avatar
      Bob Roach, September 20, 2012
      By the way, Mr Gass is an attorney. If he was so much interested in safety, he would allow other manufactures to use his multiple patents. By the way, he has patented just about everything except wood and hot dogs. Reply
    • avatar
      John N, October 31, 2012
      It is interesting to note that even though Steve Gass made donations - do you not think the Power Tool Industry, Lowes, Home Depot and others (either directly or through a PAC) did the same thing? How is one "small" company supposed to level the playing field. I am for efficent government. However, I am grateful that the government has introduced so many safety feature into so many products. If left to their own devices most companies would NOT add safety features as shown by the larger manufacturers not embracing a device (no matter who invented it) that will countless dollars/hours and mostly heartache for the woodworker and their families. But then again - things like anti-lock brakes and rated electrical devices are also an intrusion into my ability to have free choice. Reply
    • avatar
      michael ginsburg, February 17, 2013
      Mr Gass gets KUDO's for his invention. I plan on buying this saw next week. As a 60 year old woodworker with two nicks on my left index and the tip of my right thumb almost cut off, I can afford this expense however not everyone can afford the extra expense. With freedom comes responsibility and everyone should remember we cannot afford Big Brother controlling our freedoms. Mr Gass is playing by the same rules of contributions that everyone else who opposed this legislation plays by. Before you know, they will want to regulate water consumption on commodes! oops....too late. Reply
    • avatar
      TMH, May 26, 2016
      Mr. Gass is not a "well intentioned entrepreneur", he is a "Practicing Patent Attorney" and if he truly was for woodworkers safety he would release his patents. (or at least stop suing other who make saws with retractable blades and skin sensing technologies) Google Sawstop lawsuits for a wealth of information. I do not own a Sawstop, but use one at a Woodshop I manage. I set the saws up after delivery, the manuals are the best. They are truly Top Notch table saws. Reply
  5. avatar
    Pete, September 18, 2012
    We don't need more laws. Let the product speak for itself in the market. Reply
  6. avatar
    michael cooper, September 18, 2012
    This is all about 2 things. The governments desire to save us from ourselves, and this saw stop guy to impose his expensive monopoly on all of us. I am the first guy to preach safety. I drove my associates nuts when I worked at the Home Depot. Many people are injured in true accidents, but many more are preventable. This whole thing started a few years ago when a moron stacked a ryobi benchtop saw precariously on top of several items to create a makeshift bench. He was asking to be injured by his decision, and yet he convinced a jury it was not his fault and that it should have had a sawstop on it. The world is full of morons. The rule of law used to be personal responsibility. Reply
    • avatar
      SteveW, January 26, 2013
      I agree totally, way too many regulations that try to save me from myself, yes accidents happen, but if you dont know that a power tool is dangerous, and take the necessary precautions to limit injuries, you should not be using it! I dont need the govt. or a manufacturer as my baby sitter, it is my responsibility to learn how to safely operate my equipment, and if i dont i will bear the consequences, i continuously preach safety, but if you cant or wont operate safely, then stay out of the shop! Reply
  7. avatar
    Charles Nicholls, September 18, 2012
    Whether it be the SawStop or whatever other technology is brought to bare, something clearly should be used on all saws. Look at Chain saws, they have the anti kickback brake, to keep the spinning chain out of peoples faces and chests. So why not SawStop for table saws. If you can't afford SawStop or don't want it, then as John Morris said above, at least use the guards. Whatever guard you have, use it. it only takes a millisecond distraction to change your life forever. As for what else can be used or done, I don't know. I don't own a table saw myself. So i am not really up on whatever else can be used to help stop accidents. Reply
  8. avatar
    Aaron, September 18, 2012
    Stephen Gass is a fool, and a hack. Plain and simple. He wants someone else to protect him... or better worded, he wants someone to protect me from me. The FIRST person who should be thinking about protecting me is ME. I've cut tens of thousands of board feet on my table saw and never lost a finger. I use my blade guard. I use the fence properly when ripping and don't use it when cross cutting. I use a sled, miter gauge and a pushstick whenever possible as should everyone else. If you can't be responsible for your own safety how can you be responsible enough to choose your protector. Reply
  9. avatar
    Ken Grunenberg, September 18, 2012
    When I first saw this saw demo'd on TOH I said great until I found out that the blade was destroyed and part of the stop also gone. Now, had the blade just snapped below the table out of the way this would have been the better mouse trap. But instead of that we get " THE NANNY STATE " in another area of our lives. Remember once they get one thing thru they try to move on to another then another etc. what is next my router table, my radial arm saw, my bandsaw, my cordless saw, my pocket knife so i don't cut myself. Enough already if the safety device is really that good we woodworkers will jump on it in a heart beat, just look at how fast the newest tool sells. The greatest safety device is your brain, engage it first!! Reply
  10. avatar
    John Moody, September 18, 2012
    I think it should be against every ethics law out there for those with a product before any government body to make contributions to their campaigns. If the quality and cost of operating a SawStop is equal to the other top line saws on the market and made at a comparable price it will speak for its self. No matter what I am purchasing I am looking for the best deal for me. I want quality, dependability, support, safety and a price that is affordable. The government shouldn't tell me that I have to have that feature, it is a choice. Life is full of choices everyday. We make them from the moment we wake up till we go to sleep. I don't have to have someone make them all for me. As I look on WoodCrafts site I see a 3 HP Sawstop with 50" fence is less than the Delta 3HP Unisaw with 52" Biesemeyer fence. So let me decide where I want to spend my money and my insurance premiums. Noted above was the number of related type accidents. Way lower than the number of auto or motorcycle accidents and we haven't taken them away yet. We haven't made all the roads safer. We have put so my legislation in the cost of an automobile that is cost more than my first house. Reply
  11. avatar
    Ron Dudelston, September 18, 2012
    This is not unlike the mandatory helmet law for motorcyle riders that bit the dust in Indiana a few years ago. It is unfortunately people have, and will lose fingers to a table saw but is it the purpose of the government to regulate it. In my thinking, it isn't. Some feel that it is the role of the government to provide cradle to grave protection to the peoplebut I don't fall into that camp. As one has already stated, make a flesh detecting saw for a resonable price and you won't have to regulate it becasue woodworkers will clamor for it. Reply
  12. avatar
    Fred Wilson, September 19, 2012
    No one can legislate out stupid. Unless the saw just comes apart because of a manufacturer's defect, I believe that the cause for loosing fingers, thumbs, hands, etc is STUPID or CARELESS. How can they legislate that? Of course, if the inventor has a monopoly on that device, how much can the legislators make from kickbacks on that law?????? Reply
  13. avatar
    Bob Roach, September 20, 2012
    I am one of the few who use the poorly designed guard that came with my saw. I also own one of those saws that put table saws to shame when it comes to danger. The radial arm saw that now has a little brother called a mitre saw. Don't forget the saws that all butcher shops use. The band saw. I guess Mr Gass doesn,t have a device for these so they don,t impose a danger. Reply
  14. avatar
    Tim, September 29, 2012
    I purchased my saw stop table saw from WoodCraft in Houston, TX. I love the safety of the brake system and am constantly showing it to friends and bragging about it. However I oppose lawmakers forcing us to give up our freedom. I wanted one and was able to afford it. It was my choice. Don't force others to do something they don't want to. I don't need the government telling me to do one more thing. As William Wallace said in Braveheart. "FREEDOM" Reply
  15. avatar
    Richard, October 6, 2012
    Mr Gass is a patent lawyer, who tried to greased the bill to make his technology supreme and only attainable from him. I would bet "Flesh detecting technology" is patented in such a way as to preclude any other invention that detects "flesh". Sawstop is a very good product but not without its problems. Sawstop can be expensive to purchase and maintain. I would not personally relish having the saw brake drop on a $150 blade and $75 cartridge because of a wet spot on a piece of wood. Mr. Gass has to understand that Americans do not like lawyers who pander to lawmakers to obtain a foot up in the market place......it is just...well....SLIMY! He did not go after bandsaws, routers, drill presses or a whole myriad of other pieces of power equipment. Bring the price down on your product and you will own the neighborhood! The way it stands now I will not purchase ANY piece of equipment that has Mr. Gass's name on it. I, personally, abhor people that have no conscious using the government as their private goons for monetary and political gain. Mr. Gass SHOVE IT! Reply
  16. avatar
    John N, October 31, 2012
    Last question statement: 1. If a woodworker (either hobby or industry) does not have full coverage for a catastrophic accident - who do you think pays for the gap in insurance? 2. Would you feel different if YOU invented this device? Would you be willing to freely release it to the open market with little or no compensation? Just a thought. I agree you cannot regulate stupid. However, you can mitigate dangerous hazards. Loose a loved one in a preventable accident due to poor design or a gap in regulation where the safety product existed but there is no requirement to have it in place and tell me how you feel then. Reply
  17. avatar
    Robert Timmerman, November 16, 2012
    My objection to the Saw Stop is that the company is using regulation to help them build a monopoly. If the goal is really safety, sell the patents to a patent pool open to all manufacturers. In my opinion, the most dangerous aspect of table saws it kickback. You can get hurt without your fingers coming close to the blade. Saw Stop will not help with kickback. I try to do most work likely to cause kickback on the band saw, which is less likely to kick back Reply
  18. avatar
    Irv, February 3, 2013
    Heck, what is the big deal? After all most of us still have 10 fingers. Reply
  19. avatar
    Rafael, February 9, 2013
    Most of these responders are just nuts. I'm sorry, I just don't get the idea, that by God, this is America, and we don't need no meddling government to keep us from chopping off our fingers if we want! Anyone can slip up at any time, even after years and years, and we all need all the help we can get. Visit the wood working sites, and you will discover many seasoned pros that have injured themselves after years without problems. The saws may be expensive, but what's a finger or two worth to you? This reminds me of the arguments over seat belts and motorcycle helmets, which I also don't get. There are all kinds of costs to other people and society if people harm themselves terribly. I do not work for Saw Stop or know Gass, but God bless him for taking table saw safety to the next level. Reply
    • avatar
      Paul Clos, January 19, 2015
      This is the absolute wrong attitude . If you want to be safe while operating power tools you must be aware of safety rules and what you need to do so you can keep yourself safe! Chills go up my spine every time I see someone operating a power tool wearing gloves, loose clothing,neck ties and on etc. Anyone doing this while demonstrating a tool to the public should be fired. Safety is up to the individual and cannot be legislated. Reply
  20. avatar
    Russell Klein, February 15, 2013
    It has been entertaining reading all of the comments posted on this site and I appreciate the opportunity to post one of my own. I have been a woodworker for 40 years and a practicing dentist for nearly that long. I believe that the SawStop is a revolutionary device, albeit not without its own disadvantages (treated lumber, separate cartridge for dado). If it can be verifiably reliable every time I turn on the saw, it is genuine peace of mind for myself and my family. My wife and I wish to look at one soon. A Delta or Powermatic would have been my first picks. If Mr. Gass were to have taken the high road and produce a exquisitely precise and solid saw with a reliable failsafe device and allow the market alone to dictate his success without allegedly enlisting politicians to guarantee it, his achievement would be widely praised and untainted. But I will review his product and make my own decision. This is the eve of surgery on my right 2nd and ring fingertips to repair the damage from my saw. I am guilty of being a hobbyist and this is my first accident. And I assure Mr. Fred Wilson from a previous post that as a skilled dentist, that I am far from stupid or careless. I hope he never has the occasion to be human. But thankfully, my hand will return to full function. Reply
  21. avatar
    Kenneth M Kite, February 19, 2013
    I can remember people with Polio, can you? I just wrote a rant about people that would rather put themselves and society in danger, because they believe that being told by an adult that they should not do dangerous things, is not acceptable. They can be whatever they want and nobody can tell them what to do. If you know a killer drunk driver then you know these folks. I want Cars with computers that turn the machine off when it senses that the driver is having a stroke or is drunk. I want machines that prevent stupid mistakes! This is just my top line, the rest is deleted. I see Saw Stop and the Polio Vaccination on the same shelf. Reply
  22. avatar
    Sam West, March 8, 2013
    Inventor of the SawStop must be revered for his ingenuity for creating such a precise and safe machine. His political views, unfortunately, are completely inconsistent with the founding principles of this country and, on a broader scale, with the requirements of man's life that he claims to protect. We, the American People, must be free to act to pursue our lives the way that works the best for us. It should be up to the woodworker to decide whether he should spend $3000 of a SawStop or $1500 on a regular table saw and the remaining $1500 on other equipment like jointer, drill press or collection of hand tools. Forcing his choice in any way is a violation of his (and vendor's) rights. Reply
  23. avatar
    Eric, April 9, 2013
    I want to know why the folks at saw stop never use a blade guard. I mean i know why, for clarity in the demonstration, but saw stop is a last a nd final resort for saftey. Finally, what whould the cost be to reto fit an existing saw. As I know only saw stop brand saws are available with the brake. Not only is the manufacturers fighting a loosing battle due to exclusivity but also lack of designs for other saws. Reply
    • avatar
      frank, April 9, 2013
      I would not say they are the last or final resort. Many companies invoke safety features in their tools. That being said, check out this new technology that uses a proximity switch, much like the lamps that turn on and off with just a touch, but picks up on your fingers before you get close to the blade. CLICK HERE. Reply
  24. avatar
    walter, September 1, 2013
    Amazing: all the comments about freedom and "nanny state.". Guys 'n Gals: one of the prices of living within a functioning society is that there need to be rules. You don't pay 100% of your way 100% of the time: hospitals are built, roads are built, EMT/Paramedics are trained and kept on staff, ERs are staffed. Something done by society as a whole for the benefit of society. Infrastructure is multigenerational. Want to live without rules? Move to Somalia: no rules. No infrastructure. Have a road accident ? Bleed out in the mangled reck. Hurt someone in a road accident? Pay now or be shot dead now. Maybe both. You want something your neighbor has? Shoot him/her and take it. Someone wants what you have? They shoot you and take it. Maybe along with your whole family. Maybe from a klick and a half with a 23mm autocanon, not a wimpy Glock 9 or an AKM. Sorry: seen the chaos of a ruleless land. Got the scars to show for it. Don't want to see it here. Neither do you. Reply
  25. avatar
    Lelio, February 22, 2014
    Very nice advice. http://woodcarvington.blogspot.com Reply
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