July 16, 2012 — After a 3-2 vote from the California State Judiciary Committee, the Table Saw Safety Act will be voted on by the California State Senate. The lower house already passed the bill by a landslide 64-4 decision. If the Senate passes the bill, it will become law. Manufacturers of table saws in California will be required to include flesh-sensing safety technology on all table saws by 2015. Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara) is responsible for sponsoring the bill.
Although flesh-sensing safety technology has existed for more than a decade, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has spent several years deliberating about whether to require safety technology on all new table saws. Proponents say the technology could prevent thousands of injuries and amputations. Opponents say that increased training could reduce injuries, and it would be unfair to make everyone pay more for safer table saws.
The Power Tool Institute (which represents most major table saw manufacturers) has aggressively lobbied the CPSC to increase the commenting period, which has delayed any decision from the federal safety agency.
Every year, the CPSC estimates between 3,500-4,000 suffer amputations due to table saw accidents, and 67,000 people visit the emergency room with table saw injuries. The cost to the public health system is approximately $2.3 billion.
Advocates for the safety technology say that it would only add $100 to the cost of every table saws, which would not make the saws too expensive for hobbyists.
Opponents say that requiring the flesh-sensing technology would give an unfair monopoly to the inventor of the flesh-sensing technology. The only commercially viable flesh-sensing safety technology is called the SawStop. It was invented by Stephen Gass, an Oregon inventor and attorney, who created the device in his barn. He now owns SD3, the only company that makes table saws that include the flesh-sensing safety technology. The technology works by attaching a sensor to a low electrical current that runs through the saw blade. If the saw comes in contact with human flesh, the sensor senses the drop in electrical current and triggers a braking mechanism within one-hundredth of a second.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the vote will probably not go before the Senate until August.
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