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While proposed standards for table saw safety move slowly through the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s rule making process, the State of California moved one step closer to enacting legislation that would require “flesh detecting technology” on all new table saws sold in that state beginning in 2015, according to a July 4 story in the LA Times. Last week, AB 2218 was approved by a state senate committee and will likely be voted on in early August. Only one manufacturer, SawStop, makes a saw that would comply with the rule at this time. As with the proposed federal rule, the proposed California law was introduced as a result of lobbying efforts by the owner of SawStop. SawStop holds numerous patents on the technology in their own machines, as well as broader patents that would make it difficult for other manufacturers to comply with any rule, state or federal, without entering into a lengthy and expensive legal battle. SawStop has been unable to reach any agreements with other manufacturers to license the technology.

While this law would only apply to California, other manufacturers would be faced with giving up sales to a large segment of their market, or to develop technology to meet the requirement, then face legal challenges about the relevant patents. An earlier LA Times Story details the lobby efforts of both Gass and SawStop and the Power Tool Institute and large retailers.

Table saw safety is a serious issue, and we’ve been following the issue closely for the last few years on this blog. There are other issues that come into play as a good idea and a technological breakthrough gets closer to being government mandates. Your thoughts are welcome in the comments below.

You can find earlier posts on table saw safety here.

– Robert W. Lang

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Showing 52 comments
  • Paul

    i have put all but one of my T/s’s in secure storage, as future investment! As for Sawstop, They couldn’t give me one!

    “Nothing is Impossible, just Takes a Little Longer”

  • AerographerE8

    The following was taken from the US patent office web site “For applications filed on or after June 8, 1995, utility and plant patents are granted for a term which begins with the date of the grant and usually ends 20 years from the date you first applied for the patent subject to the payment of appropriate maintenance fees. Design patents last 14 years from the date you are granted the patent. Note: Patents in force on June 8 and patents issued thereafter on applications filed prior to June 8, 1995 automatically have a term that is the greater of the twenty year term discussed above or seventeen years from the patent grant.” The first SawStop patent was filed in 2001 and issued in 2005.

    As for the government legislating safety protection there is one difference in this case as opposed to say seat belts or motorcycle helmets and that is in those cases there were more than one manufacturer so costs were held in check.

    I have never used a SawStop saw but have seen the videos of how it works online and would like to have that technology available on every saw, however having it legislated is wrong. I can eventually see someone challenging the law or somehow getting the US Govt. to look at the monopoly involved.

    A well written blog piece on the Osario vs Ryobi case that brought this all about.

  • riooso

    Can we say “state sponsored monopoly”? Sawstop Saws are over priced units that will never come down in price. There is no competition and assured to stay that way because the owner is a slimebag lawyer.

  • planbbob

    Get the government out of our lives; they are seriously overstepping their boundaries.

    Regardless of how many laws they pass, you can’t regulate STUPIDITY!!!!!!!!!!!

  • JimAspin2

    So does the CA law also restrict the resale of used table saws and the use of table saws that are already owned that do not have this required technology? If so why? If not why not?

  • Bill Lattanzio

    I think the best way to counter-act this law, if you are so resolved, is to not buy a new table saw at all. I generally like safety regulations because I’ve seen first hand several times what happens when they aren’t in place. But if it comes to the point that I need to purchase a new saw and must GET a Sawstop style, if I cannot afford one I won’t buy it. Simple as that. I might not be happy about it but nobody is forcing me to woodwork. I don’t golf for a hobby because it’s simply too expensive. If woodworking, or any other hobby comes to that point, it wouldn’t be the first time.

  • High Bridge Woodworks

    I seriously do not appreciate the government passing laws or mandates that effectively give a company a monopoly.

    The only way that I would support this law would be if California forces SawStop to give the free use of the 90 or so patents that the owner (who just happens to be a patent lawyer) has for this saw technology; but that won’t happen because of the vast amount of money he has been donating to CA legislators.

    I just wish that our local, state, and federal governments would stop trying to make everything fool-proof. It is impossible to make something fool-proof since the fools are so ingenious and it just makes things harder for the rest of us

  • rustyaurand

    Just another reason to NOT live in california.


    Wow. You people are vicious. Governments institute safety laws and regulations because manufacturers and employers really don’t care if you get injured (unless it costs them money), though governments are also motivated by money (no such thing as benevolence or doing something because it’s the right thing anymore).

    I suppose we should have all the seatbelt laws repealed too. That’s government interference. And the USDA too. Who needs to clean, safe food? Oh, and the EPA. No need for clean air or water either.

    If you think any of your power tools would have any kind of safety devices at all if they weren’t mandated you’re kidding yourself. Those safety devices cost money and any business out there would drop them in a heartbeat of they could same a buck.

  • captokey

    Before the government starts protecting people from themselves while enjoying a hobby, how about requireing alcoholsensors on cars to prevent drunk driving ? Death of innocent people seems a bit more important doesn’t it ?

  • joergmueller

    It seems to me that the free market system dictates to the manufacturer what to offer to the market place. It is us the consumer that tells the manufactirer what to build every time we spend our money. If the American consumer asks for cheap low quality products that is what we will get.If we start buying products like the Saw Stop we will see many more offerings of the same level of quality and safety features. It should never be the goverments role to dictate the market. We, the consumer, can dictate what we want with our purchasing power.

  • CessnapilotBarry

    I blame the tool manufacturers. The same folks who are way behind Euro saw technology, selling a 60+ year old design, had to be forced to incorporate something as simple and effective as a riving knife, blew big bucks fighting new ideas rather than implementing them or developing alternatives.

    Table saw injuries do not affect only the injured operator. They often result in large bills not covered by insurance, so everyone else’s taxes, workman’s comp insurance, and hospital bills are increased to pay for them. There is also a case of the injured person who happens to be the bread winner for the family.

    Hobbyists… Can you do your non-woodworking day job with one hand? If not, can you support yourself, and pay all of the associated costs with no help? Without the job? I honestly can’t, on all of the above.

    As for if the technology works or not… The technology has proven itself for years, over, and over, and over again…

    I have nothing to do with SawStop, other than someone who sold a well-respected, North American-made cabinet saw, to pay full retail price for a SawStop replacement.

  • GunnyGene

    When you employ a woodworker, he is expected to work wood. When you employ legislators, they are expected to legislate. When you employ regulators, they are expected to regulate.

    From their perspective it doesn’t matter what is regulated or legislated. Their job is to legislate and regulate, so they are constantly seeking new things to regulate and legislate.

    Get the point?

  • esincox

    The day the legislative branch of my state or the federal government tells me I HAVE to buy a specific brand of table saw will be the day I no longer use a power table saw. I doubt the learning curve for ripping with a Disston will be that big a deal.

    Come to think of it, maybe I’ll be proactive and sell my table saw now and never think on the issue again.

  • oldfox

    I don’t believe it is any governments (of the people, by the people) place to mandate measures or products that are designed to protect those with no common sense or copious amounts of stupidity. Whats next? Special clothing (which I will be the only one holding the patents) to prevent loose clothing (sleeves, neckties) from being snagged by rotating machinery? Oh, and how about those folks that always touch the painted area surrounding the “Wet Paint” sign? Are they going to test the new saws “flesh sensing technology”? I’m not against the technology at all. I think it’s great. (so long as it doesn’t fail) Hmmm, 100% fail proof. I wanna see that!!! See “Wet Paint” above. (remember Murphy?)

    So California wants to make it illegal to purchase a saw without this technology. Look like saw sales in Arizona Nevada and Oregon will be increasing if California signs this into law. Maybe then the state will make it illegal to *own* a saw without this technology.

    The government tried something like that some years ago and it didn’t work. It was called… “Prohibition”

    Thank you Robert for the chance to speak my thoughts.

    p.s. It’s all about the money… Thanks Gass!

  • koheni

    I agree that this is an asinine law. When legally (born or entered) or illegally in this country people do ignorant things they should not. Because they are not qualified or instructed properly before using a piece of equipment. Than everyone else should not be held to there level.

    Though I like the SawStop, I don’t care for the monopoly they are after. If they were truly in it for the “people” (insert money) than it would be inexpensive and made readily available. You don’t hear about these problems in Europe…who has a better table saw set-up anyway. i.e riving knives that move with the blade, sliding table. What we where on 10 years behind them???

  • rickb

    “California introduced th law as a result of lobbying by the owner of saw stop”. Who has a monopoly and pattens on the product. Our legislative process should not be influenced in this way for the economic gain of a company under the guise of safety necessity. On the surface, it looks like over reaching big government. Scratch the surface, and find well connected corporate greed. Neither one serves the public very well.

  • Two_Wheel_Neil

    How about this thing called personally responsibility. Crazy idea in a country that shouts the loudest of being “free”. If you cut off your fingers while not following any of the guide lines set out in the user manual, you get what you deserve. But once again legislating for stupidity in America.

  • lawrence

    Good for them!

    If Cal passes this law the other manufacturers WILL move to meet the law and safety in the other states will get better as well. It is a shame that the free market alone was not enough to get the manufacturers to improve the safety of their equipment, but if it wasn’t for OSHA and UL ratings we wouldn’t have blade guards or splitters or riving knives either… now we will have one more device that will make me feel better about teaching my children woodworking.

    I think I’ll be sending some small (under whatever $$ amount is legal and appropriate) wooden thank you gifts to the legislature that passes this bill… (afterwards of course)

    Maybe something like this- in redwood so that they can display in their offices


  • rlevister

    So this sort of reminds me of when Mr. Tesla invented alternating current. Really angered Mr. Edison, who wanted to only use Direct Current because he had so much invested in it. Of course, Mr. Tesla got his way, but at what price? Mr. Edison’s company, General Electric is one of the biggest in the world. When there was no getting around AC, they went along with it. Mr. Tesla, died in a hotel room in NYC, with nothing. All kind of reasons for both, I know. But instructive none the less, I think. Just my $.02.

  • Bill Lattanzio

    According to the linked article, the cost of a table saw injury averages $68,700+. It would be interesting to see what percentage of that comes out of the pocket of the injured, the insurance companies, and the state/govt. Again, while I may not agree with everything going on I can see why the law makers voted overwhelmingly for the legislation.

  • sqmorgan

    The linked article indicates the technology can “halt a saw blade whirling at 4,000 revolutions per minute within one-hundredth of a second after human flesh touches the teeth.” Doing the math of 4,000/60/100, the blade will get almost one full revolution once skin touches the blade (.67 plus the distance from skin touch to sensor)…enough to still do some serious damage. I appreciate the numbers of treatment and amputation, but still don’t agree the government is the best enforcer of this table saw evolution, and certainly not by directing a specific type of safety feature. There doesn’t seem to be a financial incentive for the government, unless you consider the guaranteed increase in sales tax revenue because of the higher prices. If the inventor were so noble, he would offer the patents for free. His incentive is money (Not that there’s anything wrong with that).

  • Clay Dowling

    I will dispute that the quality of table saws has gotten worse over the years. There are some pretty awful older Craftsman saws out there. Those made before King-Seeley took over manufacture are worse than any of the current crop of dirt-cheap table saws (although the Emerson built saws that followed also stank on ice).

    Everybody forgets the bad tools of the past because they don’t survive to the present. But keep in mind that high quality planes, saws and drills are only a click away.

  • Bill Lattanzio

    U.S. emergency rooms treated 66,900 saw blade-related injuries in 2007 and 2008, with amputations accounting for 12% of those cases, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The economic cost of those accidents topped $2.3 billion each year, the agency said.

    No specific California figures are available, but officials estimate that the state accounts for 1 in 10 table-saw injuries nationwide.

    So here are the questions: Does the money saved in injuries outweigh the cost of the saw? Does a Sawstop style saw bring in more woodworkers than in drives away? Will Sawstop lower it’s prices to draw in more hobbyists? I don’t know the answers. I personally like Sawstop saws. I don’t own one but I’ve used them and they are as good or better than anything else I’ve ever worked on as far as machining, power, and accuracy. I’m not sure how I feel about the legislation. It has it’s good points and it’s bad points. I would say that I like it from the state’s point of view but not from Sawstop’s if that makes any sense. I don’t like lobbyists and think they are part of the reason the country is in the shape it’s in.
    Some would say that the market should just correct itself and let the consumer decide. Maybe so, but you could also look at it from the other end and say that unless regulations like this are in place the cheaper manufacturer(and by default poorer quality)will always beat out the manufacturer looking to make a better product. If you haven’t noticed consumer goods for the most part are cheaper than they’ve ever been, and I’m not just talking about the cost. If that wasn’t the case you would see Lie Nielsen and Veritas bench planes and saws along side some of the garbage you see in stores now.
    Anyway, just an opinion..

  • sqmorgan

    I’ll respectfully disagree with bob…This is a ridiculous law and under no circumstance or pre-requisite criteria should it be approved. When some bonehead with zero training removes the protective features on a saw, he/she should not be surprised when they are injured. It’s a great optional feature available for purchase, but don’t force people to buy it. Now, every time I accidently drop a hot dog onto a running table saw, I’ll have to pay for a bunch of replacement parts (Insert sarcasm here).

  • bob_easton

    The California law, or any subsequent law or CPSC mandate needs a simple amendment. Require implementation to begin ONLY after 5 manufacturers can deliver products that comply with the law.

    Without this provision, we have a government created monopoly for the patent holder and sole producer.


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