Virtually everyone who uses power saws knows the dangers that the tool presents. When fingers or other body parts get in the way of a spinning blade, the result can be serious injuries including amputations. Despite users recognizing the dangers and taking extra steps to try to stay safe, incidents still occur. But what if saws could be made in such a way to drastically reduce such occurrences?
Apparently at least one such a device has been created, called SawStop. Designed to attach to a table saw, it stops the blade spinning as soon as it comes into contact with flesh and other things of similar consistency. One man whose finger would have been seriously injured had a saw without the technology been used, suffered a cut similar to what might be inflicted by a piece of paper. Despite antidotes like this, such saws make up only a small part of those sold each year.
Since the StopSaw became available in 2004, tool makers and their trade group have not adopted such safety devices. While they offer reasons for this, many believe it is due to the product liability lawsuits that would likely arise regarding incidents involving saws not equip with the advanced technology. Manufacturers reportedly were afraid that if one company sold saws with the safety feature, others would be forced to as well to avoid being held liable for not including a safety device on other saws.
Despite urging the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission to take action regarding the matter, it has failed to make any meaningful headway. After dropping the matter in 2006, the rule making process regarding an injury reduction technology requirement was once again picked up in 2011. That prompted the Power Tool Institute to provide comments in 2012 regarding the matter indicating that should such regulations be adopted, SawStop would hold a "monopolistic advantage" making it difficult for other toolmakers to create safety systems without infringing upon its patents. How the matter will be resolved remains to be seen.
Source: Mother Jones, "Saws Cut Off 4,000 Fingers a Year. This Gadget Could Fix That." Myron Levin, May 16, 2013