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.
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