Table Saw Hazards Spur Regulator to Consider Tougher Safety Rules

Under mounting pressure from consumer advocates and despite objections by manufacturers, the head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission says that she will consider tougher safety standards on table saws, which are causing an average of nearly 11 amputations a day in the U.S.

The announcement by the CPSC chair, Inez Tenenbaum, followed a Washington, D.C., news conference Wednesday by the National Consumers League and table saw accident victims who want action to help prevent mutilating injuries, according to the The Huffington Post.

Among the table saw accident victims who appeared was Adam Thull of Crosslake, Minn., who owns a woodworking business. Last year a table saw sliced through the bone of Thull’s right forearm, an injury from which he says will take him five years to recover, even if he’s lucky.

As The Wall Street Journal reports, CPSC figures show that the annual number of injuries from table and bench saws has reached about 40,000, up from 32,000 a decade ago. The current yearlong total includes about 4,000 finger amputations.

The executive director of the National Consumers League, Sally Greenberg, called on the Consumer Product Safety Commission to enact a table saw safety standard and asked the tool industry to support the regulations and pass the costs on to consumers.

“The vast majority of table-saw manufacturers haven’t changed their technology in 50 years,” Greenberg said. “This is a major public health and safety issue that cries out for a public policy response.”

Tenenbaum agreed that there are  too many amputations and injuries involving the mounted, circular saws. “The safety standard for table saws needs to be strengthened,” she told the Journal via email. “I have reached out to the industry, but I am prepared to support the start of federal rule making if that is what is needed to prevent these life-altering injuries.”

The NCL is pressing for adoption of a technology that stops the blade when it touches human flesh. The device, used by a company called SawStop, would add about $100 to the price of a table saw, Greenberg said.

Rival manufacturers, however, contend that the agency should give consumers a choice of safety features.

A trade group for the industry, the Power Tool Institute, said its members adopted a new guarding system in 2007 that is effective when used properly. The group also said a rule mandating SawStop technology could unfairly give the company a monopoly.


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