Table saw firms balk at device that could stop finger amputations

Table saw firms balk at device that could stop finger amputations

A business owner says the device his company makes could stop table saws from cutting off fingers, but manufacturers will not install the devices on their saws. The device can distinguish between wood and flesh and stop in time to prevent a whirring saw blade from slicing a finger. The business, called SawStop, sells the device on its own table saws to prevent finger amputations, but other companies have yet to install the SawStop's safety device or similar technology.

Sawstop's safety device runs a weak electrical current through the saw blade. If a person comes in contact with the blade while it's running, he or she absorbs part of the current. A sensor detects the change and stops the blade. Unless a hand is moving unusually quickly, the injuries from touching a blade with the device are usually minor.

That's an improvement over the current safety device, a guard that is often removed because it limits visibility of the blade, but it is not common in the industry. Meanwhile, table saws injure more than 67,000 people every year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The injuries result in more than 33,000 trips to the emergency room and 4,000 amputations.

Meanwhile, professional and do-it-yourself woodworkers continue to lose fingers in table saw accidents. Table saws injure more than 67,000 people every year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The injuries result in more than 33,000 trips to the emergency room and 4,000 amputations.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has considered enacting rules to require the technology on saw blades, but the rules have been delayed. Even without a rule, the technology has begun to affect table saw companies. In product liability lawsuits against power tool companies, injured table saw users have successfully showed that table saws could be safer if companies had used the safety device.

Source: Mother Jones, "Saws Cut Off 4,000 Fingers a Year. This Gadget Could Fix That." Myron Levin, May 16, 2013

  • Our personal injury law firm represents clients who have suffered severe injuries in the Los Angeles area. For more information, visit our amputations page.
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