Submit Your Comment on Proposed Table Saw Rule

The US Consumer Products Safety Commission is considering new safety regulations for table saws, based on a petition asking for a requirement that table saws should be equipped with a device to reduce or prevent injuries if the operator  makes hand contact with the blade. The commission can write a performance standard for new saws, require manufacturers to adopt a voluntary standard, or require labeling about the dangers of using a table saw. Part of the process is for the commission to request comments from the public on the proposed rule. The document regarding this is available online from the federal register. The public comment period for this proposed rule expires on December 12, 2011, and we encourage all of our readers to submit a comment directly to the CPSC. Instructions for submitting comments by mail are within the document, or comments may be submitted online at regulations.gov.

We have written extensively on this blog about the issue, and the outcome of this rule-making process will have a profound effect on all woodworkers. We hope you will take the time to examine both sides of this issue, consider the scope and costs of the problem versus the consequences of proposed solutions, and participate in the comment process.

The Power Tool Institute has posted their position online at www.powertoolinstitute.info

The founder of SawStop has posted this response online at woodshopnews.com

Popular Woodworking Magazine has free articles available online about safe use of the table saw.

–Robert W. Lang

71 thoughts on “Submit Your Comment on Proposed Table Saw Rule

  1. larrycowden

    There was a time many years ago when the automobile industry was faced with similar scenario regarding the installation of airbags. Today no one can argue their effectiveness at saving lifes and injuries. Yet again it was the cost issue vs. human life and injury. You could argue if the person wasn’t physically alert and capable then they shouldn’t be driving. But that doesn’t eliminate the “other driver”” or sudden mechanical failures and so on.
    Now we have available technology that while initially expensive, can save the operator from serious injury and possible death. The operator can be fully alert, well rested and follow all the required safety practices. But can you predict a sudden medical emergency such as heart attack or stroke from arising? NO, you cannot. This technology has the potential to save your limbs and life should such an emergency arise while operating the saw. What is your limb or life worth? The legislation isn’t requiring every shop owner to immdeiately replace their saws. It is requiring that saw manufactures now incorporate this into the production at the factory. When your saw wears out, how you choose to replace it is your own business. But like the airbags and seat belts, this technology can save limbs, lives, reduce economic losses from workers injured and not able to work and could help reduce insurance costs. I own a Shopsmith and have safely operated it for 30+ years. Yet, I would and intend to buy a full size dedicated Saw Stop machine because it has a built in safety that could save my hands, limb or life. What is your life worth to your wife and family? I have also had a heart attack with no warning. So I speak from experience. You can plaster your current machine all you want wih caution, danger and warning signs. But they won’t stop a saw from cutting! True it won’t stop kickback. But for some operations where the blade guard is removed, and we have all been there, this safety device is worth every penny of it if you should suffer a medical emergency or slip and fall across the blade. Would you deliberately defeat your seat belts and air bags because “nothing will ever happen to me”? I don’t think so. Support this legislation for the lives and limbs it could save. One day it might be yours!

    1. illron

      Airbags in cars isn’t just to protect you from yourself, but also the other drivers who may not be as safe as you are. If someone else controlled my safety when using a saw, sure I’d want the sawstop, but more to protect me from factors beyond my control then from myself.

  2. merrillm

    I own a Saw Stop. I bought it to protect myself and others who use my table saw. I think that people who remove the guard and splitter or riving knife all the time, are stupid.
    I believe that the comments about the unfairness of the cost of a saw stop technology being forced on buyers is not fully true – we all are being forced to pay for table saw accidents by the increase in health insurance costs. No one seems to complain about that cost being forced on us.
    Even so, I would not force everyone else to buy a saw stop.

    1. mtnjak

      Merrillm, I will agree that is not necessarily the smartest thing to do if you remove the guard and or splitter. I’m sure there are truly stupid people that want to remove the saftey devices just because they could care less, arrogance, whatever. However, in my case as outlined further down this post, I felt less safe keeping my splitter on the saw so much so that I removed it. Perhaps those who can afford higher end equipment with these devices on them don’t have the same problems as I did. That’s why I was wondering if other people have had the same problem as I did with safety devices that don’t work properly in the first place.

  3. illron

    I don’t really care if people think flesh-sensing technology is a good idea or not… what does matter is people’s right to make that decision for themselves. Those who want it can readily purchase a SawStop saw for themselves, those who don’t can choose something else. Besides, how is making this technology mandatory going to be any different than blade covers and riving knives? People disable those because they are inconvenient at times and “take too long” to put on and off, so they simply leave them off (and that’s just over a few lost minutes). People worried about ruining hundreds of dollars of blade and brake parts and losing days in the shop while parts are on order through accidental activation of the brake are simply going to disable the flesh sensing technology anyways. Meanwhile they’re being forced to pay for something they don’t use and never wanted to begin with. Car accidents injure/kill countless more individuals than woodworking accidents, but no one is trying to reduce the speed limit to a nationwide 15 mph… some things in life simply have risk.

  4. cbf123

    Those talking about the cost of saws and the government not having the right to interfere are missing the point. Based on the number of injuries we’re currently talking thousands of dollars of lost economic impact per table saw. This is currently “hidden” in things like increased insurance costs which impact everyone, but in a non-obvious way.

    Effectively, society as a whole is subsidizing the true cost of table saws.

    By enforcing safety standards, in economics-speak we’re “internalizing the externalities”. That is, we’re making the true costs explicit in the cost of the item.

    The alternative would be to say that if you buy a saw with no safety mechanism then you have to sign a waiver indicating that all insurance is null and void for injuries sustained due to the saw.

  5. jasstack

    Common sense can’t be legislated. I’ve worked in a lot of commercial woodworking shops in the past 30+ years and I repectfully submit that 99% of all injuries are due to fatigue, distraction, being in a hurry, operating while under the influence (yes, it’s done more than one might think), not knowing how to use the safety equipment or not double checking a setup before proceeding. No amount of safety equipment will help if you’re not fully concentrating on the task at hand.

      1. illron

        Only if individuals haven’t disabled the device first. People tend to be proud and I could envision many individuals saying to themselves “I’ll never cut into my hand, you’d have to be an idiot to do that. But I might accidentally trip the brake with moist lumber or something, so I better disable it… I don’t want to lose a good blade.” That’s probably why most blade guards, etc. get removed… people assuming they won’t need them and they simply “get in the way.”

  6. Rick_G

    I wonder what percentage of the table saw accidents happen because the splitter and blade guard that came with the saw were removed. Rather than mandating saw stop technology for every saw I think a good riving knife and blade guards that can actually be used for the vast majority of cuts would be just as effective. While saw stop technology would be a nice feature to have it’s still not the be all to end all. It can still be turned off. The first time a contractor cuts a wet 2x that trips the device and costs him a new blade and module you will find him doing most of his cuts with it turned off after that. Turned off the saw is no safer than what we already have.

    1. jroth33139

      You don’t have to wonder — according to the most recent study, it was removed 65% of the time in which an injury occurred.

      Other interesting facts:

      – Rips were by far the most common cut when the injury occurred (85%).
      –In 40% of the cases, there was a kickback, and in 65% of those cases, the operator’s hand was pulled into the saw.
      – Where the injury happened when the operator was pushing stock into the saw, he used a push stick in only 35% of the cases.
      – 30% of the victims were 65% or older (which seems high).

      This was very illuminating, and should be required reading for every woodworker:

      http://www.cpsc.gov/library/foia/foia11/os/statsaws.pdf

  7. mkvernon

    The whole point is to reduce the number of serious injuries while using power woodworking equipment. I’m for having a saw stop type stop on all new power equipment. One of my beloved instructors lost all the fingers on his left hand while using a jointer. While he admitted that he was angry and in a hurry when the accident happened, a stop would have prevented his loss. We need to acknowledge being human and use available technology to help us stay safe.

  8. Eric

    I remember reading in a table saw review a few years ago, I think it was either PW or Wood, that saw stop did not set out to make table saws. They first tried to interest established manufacturers in their technology. The corporations were more interested in profit. Adding or absorbing $150 to the cost of a $3000 saw was out of the question. So now they get to reap what they sow. Any “unfair advantage” the new rules may give saw stop is a result of their own greed and disregard for the safety of their customers. The safety features on most saws are there because the law mandates them. Only exceptions I can think of are magnetic switches, saw stop and some of the large paddle switches.

  9. jonkhn

    There is no argument that a table saw like many woodworking machines is dangerous. The issue is when legislation: (1) benefits a single manufacture at the expense of others and (2) will this legislation be effective. The technology to sense flesh proximity is novel, but doesn’t address kick-back. It will not stop someone from cross cutting stock without using a miter gauge or cross cut sled. In other words it lacks “mind reading skills”. Being a small professional cabinet and furniture shop I can’t afford to upgrade my saws to potentially appease my insurer should this legislation go into effect. The federal government should support school vocational programs that will reach future generations of woodworkers instead of these lame attempts to safety proof everything at the expense of common sense.

  10. kcritz

    I was extremely lucky a few weeks ago, my finger barely touched the blade and I had a very minor cut on my middle finger. Put a bandaid on my finger and went back to work. Can I go after Delta for this? No, it is my own fault for being stupid.

  11. BillT

    By the way, if you want your comments to have any value whatsoever, read the notice of proposed rulemaking and see exactly what the CPSC is asking for comment on. Simply filing a rant about how you don’t think the government should impose safety standards will pretty much have zero effect. They already have decided they are going to promulgate SOME kind of regulation. What they’re asking for now is input as to what that regulation should be. It is highly unlikely – and in fact, I submit it is out of the question – that they simply will decide to not publish any new rule. It’s coming, period. The question is what will the rule require.

  12. BillT

    I disagree that this rulemaking “will have a profound effect on all woodworkers.” I have a shop chock full of old and downright antique woodworking machinery. I have absolutely zero intention of ever buying a new table saw, when (1) I already have three table saws in my shop right now, the newest of which is mid-1970s, and all of which are very sturdy, solid machines that I expect to outlive me and (2) even if I did want to buy another table saw, there are so many good, used machines out there on Craig’s list and local used machinery dealers.

    I submit that for most of us who already have our shops set up, or who at least already have the table saw we want – or who would be scouring the local classifieds for a used saw anyhow – this rule will not affect us one bit, as it applies only to new machines sold in the U.S.

  13. dragoondr

    I agree that our craft is dangerous. I am presently healing from a kickback injury but am fully aware that the whole thing was my fault. My point is that I accept the blame rather than attempting to pass it to someone else. The more you become immersed in woodworking the more guards and safety gadgets get into the way. My own table saw has all of the guards removed; just looking at that toothy monster is usually enough for me to work safe.

  14. doverwood

    If you are not comfortable with a table saw, do not turn it on.

    If a sawstop mechanism will make you comfortable, buy one.

    Do not require anyone to buy one.

    Someday I will upgrade to a better saw than I currently own. Should a sawstop mechanism fit in the budget, I would get it.

    1. MarkSchreiber

      Totally agree with you. I have the greatest respect for power tools and my safety is my responsibility. Sawstop is a great idea for those who are either stupid, clumsy, or paranoid. Requiring everyone to own one is another thing. I still use my old Craftsman 10″ contractor saw on occasion but I plan on breaking out my handsaws and sharpening tools and proceed with what I am comfortable with.

      1. bobv35b

        I am stupid, clumsy and now paranoid. I had an accident severing my thumb because of a saw blade guard. I didn’t completely loose the thumb, but the trip to the ER cost a hell of a lot more that the SawStop I bought afterwards. All it takes is a split second and you may experience what I did. At my age, they won’t pay for putting the finger back and with the upcoming health care crap, I don’t need a regulation to nudge me. Why hit on SawStop, they didn’t ask for legislation, a lawyer for another insurance company did.

  15. walsh@iu.edu

    I must admit to being a little surprised by some of the comments here about ‘the government’ trying to protect us from ourselves. Should we abolish seat belts and airbags? How about fireproof children’s sleepwear? Fire extinguishers in buildings?
    If Delta had introduced this technology, I doubt we’d be talking about it.
    Safety first. The cost is secondary.

    1. Markc214

      Walsh– Your examples are out of context.
      Roads are govt property so the feds and state can dictate laws like seatbelts
      Public Buildings are owned by the govt so again they can impose laws like fire extinguishers.

      Saws– table saws largely fall under private property. The feds imposing more regulations is just wrong and simple minded. It is not the govt’s job to protect us from our own ignorance like not knowing how to use a saw properly.

      Merry Christmas Hoosier.

      1. jgwilkie

        No, the analogy is good and seat belt laws apply even on private roads and fire extinguisher laws apply in private buildings of a certain size. The question is cost to society. We can kill ourselves or cut our hands off all day long and if it only costs us not many care. Table saw safety is a miniscule concern compared to fire and traffic safety and while it is a good idea, I am surprised the government is getting involved in it. They would be better off mandating it for shop classes in schools and the like where novices are invited in to use the tools and may not necessarily understand and accept the risks. Once these folks become woodworkers then market forces will take care of it.

  16. sderwin

    OK, OK, Look folks, woodworking can be an inherently dangerous activity. First rule I learned in “Wood Shop” 7th grade—-”Pull your head out first”, pay attention, if you don’t know what you are doing –DON’T,–The machines are STUPID, be smarter than the equipment you are working on,—-if you can’t pay attention, un-divided attention, to what is going on,then GET OUT OF THE SHOP. I am so sick and tired of do-gooders trying to protect us from ourselves, what ever happened to common sense? If someone has not been trained to use a piece of equipment, he/she should not be using it
    ,it really is that simple.If a saw is not safe, UUHHHH- DUUUHHH DON”T USE IT. What we need less of in this world is stupid people, and those making rules or laws about something they have no understanding of. Now if you will excuse me I’m going out and make some sawdust , on my properly set-up Craftsman table saw—-with no phone or radio or anyone distracting me, etc. etc.

    1. kwilson

      I ABSOLUTELY agree. Does our government have nothing better to do. Look, I am all for safety. However, if you can’t pay absolute attention to safety, or you have never used power equipment before, DON’T do it. I think we as a country have more pending issues to deal with as the ECONOMY maybe! Let’s get that rolling again so we as woodworkers can sell more of our work. I don’t know about other parts of the country, but woodworkers in Ohio are struggling as much as anyone else!

  17. Nick Gibbs

    We’ve discussed this a fair amount recently in British Woodworking, and recently featured an article about fitting riving knives safely. Personally I’m not at all in favour of automatic stopping devices. Obviously they’d be great in schools and colleges and community workshops, especially if they enable students to learn how to use machinery they are otherwise prohibited from using. However I can’t help thinking that this is a dumbing down of skill and awareness, and the money would be much better spent on educating users in the proper use of such tools, so that they set up machines safely and are conscious of potentially-dangerous situations.

    1. Robert W. Lang Post author

      Thanks for weighing in Nick. One of the things I find fascinating about this whole issue is the different approach to safety in England and Europe, and the apparent lack of interest in SawStop on your side of the pond. It took us far too long to adopt riving knives and sensible guard systems.

    2. markheady

      I have to agree with you Nick. Properly designed guards are, by far, the best way to ensure that fingers don’t get anywhere near blades – not proximity detectors. Proximity detectors (or the like) are just too late to be a safe method of working – thus the lack of interest in saw stop type technologies in UK/Europe/Australia. Guards can also be interlocked to ensure that if the guard isn’t on, the saw can’t run – to ensure that machines cannot be operated without guards. To make dado cuts – you just have to do it another way (ie. Router). I have never seen a UK magazine illustrating the making of dados by table saw – not in the last 5 years anyway. I’m pretty sure that most of the Europeans operate this way with guards for most equipment. And as for anyone operating in the furnituremaking business – well it is against the law to operate machinery of any sort without proper guarding of rotating components. Same in Australia.

  18. mtnjak

    I remember seeing comments regarding this issue a few months back when the subject first came up and my comments are similar to other peoples concerns about the functionality of these safety devices. Personally, I’m all for safety devices on equipment as long as they function properly for the intended user. I have a $400 Crafsman folding contractor’s saw that I purchased about 3 years ago. If the intended user is a home builder/remodeler then I would say that the saw safety devices work fairly well. However, as a hobbyist woodworker after I started using the saw there were obvious problems with blade guard/riving knife/anti-kickback contraption that came with the saw. The knife would never align properly with the blade and would hinder the wood movement through the cut and the anti-kickback device always dug into a finished planed board too much and would damage the finished piece. I actually felt a little intimidated using the saw for the riving knife problem alone so I ended up removing the entire device from the saw. I always use push boards and feather boards with the saw and never stand directly behind the blade (all basic table saw safety tips)but currently do not have any safety devices attached to the saw. I plan to come up with a guard device of my own in the near future.

    If all companies are mandated to have some sort of device like SawStop’s on their saws and the price goes up I guess we’ll all pay for it. But if the safety device(s) are much better in fuction than what I have access to currently, the extra $250 (average estimated price increase, if that’s an authentic number) is probably worth it versus the alternative possibility of losing a digit or two.

    I’ve only used two table saws so far (my first one, a borrowed Black & Decker, had no safeties on it) so I don’t know how other companies safety devices fucntion. Anyone else have issues like mine?

  19. bob_easton

    Yes, 1980 characters is not enough for a full blown rant. :) Yet, if you give it careful preparation (like prioritizing a lumber cut list) you can pack a lot into that little space.

    Write with authority, yet with politeness.

  20. bluejazz

    I went to this site and offered the Feds my perspective. Had a lot to say too, I guess. Just so you don’t waste time like I did, they cut you off at just about 1980 characters.

        1. BillT

          Not so. I practice administrative law (i.e., dealing with regulatory agencies). They do not give comments submitted on paper any more weight than those submitted electronically. In fact, they tend to prefer electronic comments, or at least electronic submittal of a PDF, because they are much easier to compile and manage, rather than receiving a physical piece of paper in the mail.

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