About the author

Myron Levin is editor of FairWarning.

23 comments to “After More Than a Decade and Thousands of Disfiguring Injuries, Power Tool Industry Still Resisting Safety Fix”

  1. Debi julius

    My husband’s had horrible table saw injury Feb 2017. Cannot find s a lawyer willing to take case. Anyone?

  2. Aiden

    Excellent article! We aare linking to thhis great article on our website.

  3. John

    This is truly a breakthrough. I have seen my colleagues were seriously injured. really be dangerous when using bandsaw. this really is a big step. actually it would be safe for many people

  4. Roger Hamblen

    I have always said………..never mask a problem……..solve it. The good news is, there is a solution to greatly reduce the problem. Conventional table saws are dangerous………period. One can tinker with safety devices and make something to solve one problem or something else to solve another problem. With all these safety devices it makes the saw almost impossible to use…….. so what do people do…….get rid of the safety devices. At the end of the day it is not the fault of the table saw that caused an injury but quite likely a bad decision of the operator. In my opinion there are two leading causes that lead to the majority of injuries:
    1) Inexperience
    2) Complacency
    Inexperience is self-explanatory but complacency comes with experience and confidence.

    All of these safety devices are no good if they are not used. I have to admit, I have removed safety devices from my table saw, in particular the blade guard with the anti-kickback. It was always cumbersome to use, caused the wood to bind and just plain never did work right. One day the blade guard would not lift to allow the wood to go underneath so I reached over to lift the guard up a bit. As I did that it suddenly lifted and the wood hit the blade. After the guard was ripped of the mount and it, along with the wood hit the back wall………thank god I was standing aside. Upon inspection I was horrified when I saw plastic guard slivers stuck in the gyprock……..that could have just as easily been me!!!

    The Saw Stop may stop the blade if a finger comes close to the blade but will it stop kick back? Kickback is another leading cause of serious injury that could arguably be even more dangerous. If I had to choose, I think I would rather lose a finger than lose an eye as a result of a piece of wood that splintered and came flying back at horrendous speed due to kick back. And yes……don’t be fooled……..a lot of safety devices may only give you a false sense of security which may lead to an even greater possibility of injury.

    The last straw!!!!
    I consider myself a very safety conscious person around power equipment and I was never comfortable using my full size table saw without a blade guard so I purchased a new one and installed it. All was fine until one day I was squaring a piece of 2” x 4”. What could possibly go wrong? I had all the safety parts installed and I was using a cross cut sled. Well that 2” cut off piece from the 2” x 4” decided to hit the back of the blade and came screaming back and hit me just above the eye. So much for the blade guard and anti-kickback!!! It felt like I was just hit by a 20pound weight traveling at the speed of light. There was blood everywhere as it made a really good gash in my forehead just above my eye. After four stiches at the hospital the doctor said if that projectile had hit just ½” lower I would definitely be blinded in that one eye. I am reminded of it every day when I look in the mirror and see the scar. Sometimes accidents just happen but it was also a wakeup call for me.

    As a designer, I said there has to be a better way so I set out to design a new machine to replace the table saw with something that would not only work better than a table saw but would also dramatically reduce the possibility of injury. If you would like to see the machine I designed you can see it at
    https://youtu.be/8JBhE9palOk I think a lot of people agree it is a great solution because we have sold hundreds of them.

    Roger

  5. Johnson

    Excellent article! We aare linking to thhis great article on our website.
    Keep up the great writing.

  6. Henryson

    This is truly a breakthrough. I have seen my colleagues were seriously injured. really be dangerous when using bandsaw. this really is a big step. actually it would be safe for many people

  7. Jarrod

    The tablesaw is dangerous? No kidding. People have been patenting passive injury mitigation products for the past 100 years now. That doesn’t include what sensible people have developed in their own shops, to protect themselves and their workers from the inherent danger of a high speed, rotating machine.
    I’m studying Mechanical Engineering and I’m writing a paper on this topic in my politics course at Ryerson University, in Toronto. I also happen to be a professional cabinetmaker and bowl turner, who went to college for cabinetmaking as well as taking every shop class in high school.
    I am sick and tired of researching this topic! Even in the pictures shown in the article above I could identify safety violations that would certainly lead to blade contact injuries, without a doubt! If you want to talk about why there are so many injury, you should look at the availability of saws to begin with. I’m assuming you still need a licence to drive a car in America? Here too.
    Yet you are making an inherently dangerous machine available to people who don’t know how to use them properly. Moreover, you reward a person who admitted to not knowing how to use the machine, who removed all the safety devices to cut hardwood flooring and you wonder why they cut off their fingers. And then you argue that even professionals get hurt, well yes, they do from time to time, but experience and understanding the nature of the work/machine should reduce that occurrence to nil. Humans make bad decisions! We are not talking about chainsaws here, where you risk getting crushed or bleeding out and dying! Again, another extremely dangerous machine available to any idiot with a hundred dollars. What I’m getting at is, you still have deaths from car crashes, even with seat belts and airbags. We still have drinking and driving as the leading cause of car crashes. Humans make bad decisions! You realize that the autonomous automobile already exists right? I bet its less than 20 years and we are talking about removing the driver from trains, buses and finally cars! why? because humans make bad decisions.
    You should also recognize that you can turn off the SawStop technology, to cut aluminum for example, and if you forget to turn it back on while continuing to use the bad woodworking habits you’ve developed due to your false sense of security, you will cut off your finger. Another case is you go use a saw that doesn’t have the technology and again, using your bad work habits, you saw off your finger. It will be interesting to see who sues SawStop first, for not automatically turning back on due to user carelessness.

    I think Steve Gass’ legacy will be of an inventor with a great idea, who tried to manipulate patent law for his own personal gain, while using the public as a pawn. He is a fear monger as are all of his adds. He neglects to tell people that his device is not a substitute for education and experience. His technology will not protect you from kickback, which, if are like so many inexperience user and remove all the UL recommended safety devices, is a certainty and a leading causes of injury.
    I think the patent system needs a provision that says a patent becomes void if a design specification is approved by the CPSC, to mandate the technology for the purpose of public safety. I believe in the free market and the American dream, but not at the expense of public or personal safety. Gass is holding us all ransom until he gets what he thinks he is owed. He is a patent lawyer. What he is doing is unethical. He has filed a lawsuit against Bosch to restrict their new saw from coming to North America, so much for the open market. Furthermore, who is really going to trust a flesh sensing technology made in China? Gass already has the market cornered, but probably doesn’t want to lower his prices from some healthy competition.

    If you don’t want to cut off your fingers, buy a power feeder.

  8. jim

    well read some of the comments and just goes to show you how stupid people are. here is a saw the will not cut off you fingers and guys are saying well you just need to be safe and you just have to watch what your doing. I have seen where men that have worked on saws all there lives and there hand slips and thy loose a few fingers?? I have seen the saws in action and would not want to work on one that does not have the stop on it and sure as hell do not want my kids working on one that does not have it. but hay go ahead and take a chance shit what is a few fingers??

  9. Doug Freeman

    This article is like reading liberal political opinion – it’s spun to make all other manufacturers and associated parties appear as devils and Steve Gass appear as saint. If Gass were such a saint, the saw stop tech would have been licensed at a very reasonable cost, or even given away, as Tesla did with AC motor design. Do a little research and I think you’ll find the finger points at Gass, not all the other parties. Thankfully Bosch has now developed competing tech that gets around Gass’ patents.

    The fact that our “legal system” took on the socialist ideal of wealth redistribution by blaming companies/designers for irresponsible users is a much broader problem revealed by the table saw safety issues.

  10. Rich Ellis

    My comment is to schools, woodshop teachers and risk managers in schools. Kids will be kids. Kids forget stuff and make mistakes. Ask their moms. If this were not true it would not take us 12 years to get them through high school. The woodshops are busy places, and supervision is hard to do. Ask any woods teacher. Having a SawStop-type saw to replace the existing table saws with funky guards and other gadgets that don’t get used or don’t work makes sense, and according to government figures for every dollar spent on this technology in cost up front, there are 5 dollars saved in costs to pay for accidents. All this stuff about personal responsibility is fine if you’re Evel Knievel, but spare me the John Wayne rhetoric when it comes to a child. This isn’t the wild west any more, pardners. Schools, wise up.

  11. Brent Healy

    There are other options for improving Table Saw Safety, one of which is the GRR-RIPPER by MICROJIG. Celebrating 10 years, this tool has prevented injuries in my shop while also reducing wasted wood costs and enabling me to work much more efficiently. This tool is less expensive and offers a wide variety of benefits. Check it out at http://www.microjig.com

  12. Isla

    Excellent article! We aare linking to thhis great article on our website.
    Keep up the great writing.

  13. matt

    The PTI objects to the licensing necessary due to the “more than 50 patents” related to SawStop’s braking system;[10] such costs “would destroy the market for the cheapest, most popular saws, adding $100 or more to the price of consumer models that typically sell for less than $200.”[8] In response, their members developed “new plastic guards to shield table saw users from the dangers of a spinning blade” and began selling models with that feature in 2007; as of May 2011, PTI says “its member companies have received no reports of injuries on [the 750,000] table saws with the new guard design.”[9]

    [9] = Jennifer C. Kerr (May 25, 2011). “New rules for table saws sought to cut amputations”. Associated Press. Salon.com. Retrieved 2011-06-29.

  14. matt

    hi!

    you left me hanging there?

    so…were the new guard changes successful in reducing injuries the past few years for top-brand saws?

    i think i read somewhere that new guards/etc. have made an incredible difference.

    but, i could be wrong.

    any ideas/facts on this?

  15. best vines

    Thanks for finally writing about >After More Than a Decade and Thousands of Disfiguring Injuries, Power Tool Industry Still Resisting Safety Fix | FairWarning <Liked it!

  16. Michael Mangen

    In response to some comments. Read the definition of accident . If one happens to you or your children, you will be singing a different tune.

  17. Shawn Y

    I fail to understand this continual push towards the lack of any personal responsibility using products of any sort that may cause personal injury due to a user’s stupidity. Show me an instance where it is not the user’s neglect that caused their injury. Can’t do it can you? Guards are removed, read a comment somewhere else that someone was wearing gloves, etc… The stories shown in this article relating to the injuries ultimately show the lack of regard for ones personal safety, or any respect for the tools involved. If the guard was in place, Adam Thull wouldn’t have been injured. If he had support in place on the piece of wood he was cutting, he wouldn’t have been injured. Tom Corbett claims to be experienced and safety conscious, yet his wood “jams” and his hand is “thrown” into the blade. THAT DOESN’T HAPPEN. Unless of course, you are pushing extremely hard on the wood, and NOT USING A PUSH STICK, something my junior high shop teacher would have lambasted us for and sent to the principle’s office if anyone was caught not using one. One more offense and you would be kicked out of shop class. A bandsaw is far more dangerous than a table saw, due to the proximity of your hand and fingers to the blade, but people are far more careful I guess, since we don’t seem to have tons of lawsuits regarding them. Using common sense, and accepting the shame of personal responsibility for stupid actions has been abrogated by the industry of personal injury lawyers who are more than happy to enrich themselves by showing the world that a lack of intelligence isn’t a barrier to financial success, all you have to do is prove your stupidity by causing bodily injury to yourself or others, and get a jury to blame someone else. That is really sad.

  18. Mike Cambra

    What ever happened to a little personal responsibility? I’ve been using a table saw for years and still have all of my digits. I’ve shown my son what the table saw is capable of also. A healthy fear of the blade is required to use it.

    I don’t blame the industry for not implementing it. If you want to have the device then go buy a saw with it installed and leave the rest of us and our tools alone.

  19. Skip Couture

    Nowhere in this article did I read what it would cost to install saw stop. What is the cost for a manufacturer to have saw stop on it’s saws???? I somehow cannot believe it would be that expensive. Is there damage to the saw when and if this system activates???? If damage does happen, what is the cost to repair the saw????
    Why are these and I am sure many others not answered or even brought up????
    Skip

  20. George Bull

    Many thanks to Myron Levin and Lilly Fowler and FairWarning for this insightful piece on the SawStop saw, and it’s safety features. I had the good fortune of using a SawStop cabinet saw for the last several years in our university wood shop, thanks to an insightful engineer friend in management who had seen a demonstration of the saw, and thought that an aging long-term employee deserved good equipment. The SawStop saw was easily the best built table saw in our large shop, and the only time I used the larger Delta saws (5hp), was to break down sheet goods, or to do repetitive rips of hardwoods using an automated feeder. The saw works as advertised, and when I look at my friends in the business with serious hand injuries, and months of missed work, I am amazed that this saw is not in nearly universal use.

  21. John Pombrio

    The MAJOR reason why SawStop is not more widely used is the cost of the equipment. A SawStop contractor saw costs at LEAST twice as much as higher quality table saw. A trigger of the quick stop is a one time only event without a cartridge replacement which is very expensive just by itself.
    No company wants to license the thing as it has been priced way out of line with what people are willing to pay. Besides, there are plenty of great saw guards and kickback devices available but a are quickly removed by most users. Safety equipment does no good if it is not there!
    If Mr. Gass would let other companies cheaply license then improve and cheapen the technology, I am sure it would be a more widely used.

  22. Ben Kelley

    This is a powerful example of a pattern in behavior among manufacturers of inherently hazardous products: resist safety technology for a number of dubious reasons while minimizing the horrendous injuries that the products can cause. Blame-the-user is part of that pattern, as are the “safety costs too much” and “regulation is bad” arguments.

    This is historically the case for a range of products that depend on the use of energy, speed and proximity to human users for their performance – motor vehicles, motor boat propellers, table saws, guns, etc. It takes effective legal and/or marketplace compulsion to achieve adoption of safety-technology countermeasures that will reduce injuries caused by such products. The same inventiveness that brought these products into being in the first place can and should be applied to limiting their potential for harm. It’s the behavior of manufacturers and marketers, not users, that requires changing as the first line of product injury prevention.

  23. David Butler

    W appreciate the honorable mention of Whirlwind here. Your recounting of Steve Gass & SawStop’s long experience with industry reminds me that we at Whirlwind are now experiencing a “deja vu all over again.” Currently I’m considering marketing our “Black Box” device as a build-it-yourself kit for those users wishing to retrofit their current table saw or similar machine. We have product requests pouring in but lack the resources to respond with a finished product. Best of luck to all working this safety problem.

    David Butler

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