Better Safety For Table Saws – 10 People PER DAY Lose Fingers in U.S.

Close to 10 individuals lose a finger or mangle a hand in a table saw each day across the country. And for years there has been a technology designed to stop those injuries, leading consumer advocates to demand that federal officials speed up new rules enabling table saws to be safer.
According to a report from the Associated Press, the technology, which has a sensor that can prohibit the blade from continuing if a finger gets too close, was first developed in the late 1990s. To date, the majority of manufacturers haven't embraced it, in part to disagreements over spending. (WCxKit)
According to manufacturers, adding the technology would make saws considerably more costly. On the opposing side of the aisle, the technology's inventor wants to be paid for their creation – something they claim the companies making saws aren't willing to do.
The manufacturers, via a trade association, have brought on high-powered Washington lobbyists – compensating Bracewell & Giuliani $30,000 in the first quarter of the year – to promote their case in front of Congress and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the federal agency charged with overseeing the safety of a countless number of products.
In 2006, the commission was slated to address table saw safety based on a petition Gass filed three years earlier seeking the agency require that saws have a technology to stop the blade if flesh is sensed. But a change in leadership at CPSC seeking more research on the problem, resulted in a delay.
To date, several hundred lawsuits have been filed against manufacturers regarding table saw injuries. (WCxKit)
Meantime, the industry reports it has come up with new plastic guards to shield table saw users from the dangers of a spinning blade. Great, let's see them!
Having worked for a manufacturer and a defense law firm, I believe that even though guards do cost money and recalls are expensive, there are some things that just need to be addressed – and machines that cut off fingers and hands fall into that category. This is where we balance the needs of consumers with those of the manufacturer and society as a whole.

I hear criticism about how plaintiff's attorneys cause costs to rise, however, keep in mind that without plaintiff's attorneys and the contingency payment system we have in this country, it would be impossible for those who lose their body parts to address these safety concerns in court. 

Manufacturers have little incentive to make safer products and recall those that are unsafe without the threat of expensive litigation. Without large punitive damage awards, safety measures would not be improved. Or, to put it another way, it is the large punitive damage awards that force manufacturers to design safety into their products and guard those products which are necessary for consumers even with inherent safety concerns where a design flaw cannot be designed out.

These machines need to have proper, effecitive fail safe guards. A fail-safe guard is one where if the guard is removed the machine will stop working (before an injury occurs) — spinning blades must stop immediately upon the guard being removed. Also, slapping a warning label of a product that could have had the defect designed out or guarded, is simply not adequate.


Author Rebecca Shafer
, JD, President of Amaxx Risks Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. See for more information. or 860-553-6604.

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.
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