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California assembly member Das Williams has introduced a proposed law that would make the sale of new table saws without active injury mitigation technology, illegal. As written, the law would take effect January 15, 2015 and defines the requirement as:

“technology to detect contact with, or dangerous proximity between, a hand or finger and the teeth of the blade above the table top of a table saw, and to prevent the blade from cutting the hand or finger deeper than one-eighth of an inch when the hand or finger approaches any portion of the blade above the table top at a speed of one foot per second from any direction and along any path. Notwithstanding the prior sentence, active injury mitigation technology may be temporarily deactivated by a person so that a saw can cut material which would otherwise be detected as a person.”

The proposed legislation can be found in PDF format at this link

The federal government, through the Consumer Products Safety Commission, is in the process of considering proposed product safety requirements with similar specifications, and will be holding hearings sometime this year. While this law would not directly effect sales of table saws in other states, consumer legislation in California often has an impact beyond the borders of that state. Documents from the CPSC regarding this matter can be found at this link.

Popular Woodworking Magazine has written extensively about this issue, and related blog posts can be found here.

–Robert W. Lang


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Showing 62 comments
  • chelluh

    Calif. The laughing stock of the nation, again some knot-head in Calif government is spending time trying to figure out how to cost us more to live here, instead of focusing on bring jobs and company’s back, they are still trying to get them to move to Arizona, Nevada, Mexico (where I will buy any new saws).

  • lary_s

    Frankly, I can’t believe how anti safety regulation some people are. Have we all forgotten black lung, asbestos, love canal, child labor, cars without seat belts, the great reduction in the cost of anti-lock breaks when they became more available, the horrible working conditions in the 1800 & 1900’s, all the people working in horrible conditions today because their governments don’t have the regulations we do, etc, etc. ??

  • HRC

    I find it hard to believe anyone supporting the government – state or federal – becoming involved in legislating safety. OH, sure – you welcome the safety aspect. But it never stops there with the government. It will lead to more restrictive ways to control our behavior and choices. Eventually they find a way into our pockets to either penalize us for not complying or forcing us to pay for someone who can’t quite afford to comply … and everyone will have to pay for everyone to have a SS Tablesaw. You have seen it happen before if you are over the age of 15.
    As I said before …. Safety is a personal issue and should be left there without government intrusion.
    If you don’t understand …. put on the damn helmet!

  • David4444

    This is just yet another example of lawyers making law just for the sake of making law. This law (like many others) border on the premiss of litigating morality, which everyone knows is impossible. It waists time and the peoples money. In my humble opinion because it is so “anti American”, I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t have Das Williams arrested for treason. It would be interesting to see how THAT is handled by our infamous law makers.

  • comotion59

    There are people out there that is looking for the free ride on stupidity. All the regulations can not fix it. The men and women that do woodworking as an occupation or a hobby and take pride in it. Know the risks and dangers. All the safety warnings in the book that comes with the equipment. If you do not read and understand them you should not be operating the equipment.

  • HRC

    The government is WAY too involved in controlling our lives already. From Taxes to Safety (MUST wear helmets, MUST wear seatbelt, MUST refrain from cell use in vehicle, MUST not use table salt, MUST maintain certain BMI, MUST , MUST, MUST). No one on this site or any other is against safety. What we are against is gov’ment intrusion. What we are FOR is personal responsibility and freedom. We used to have the freedom to choose how we maintain safety while driving AND the level of safety we were comfortable with. To mandate SS technology is to provide new and sometimes veteran woodworkers with a false sense of built-in safety. As my grandfather used to say, “As soon as you call something ‘fool-proof’ along comes some fool to prove you wrong.” Safety is a personal matter – not a government mandate!!

  • bjohnson4889

    A couple of you have hit on the key points in this debate:

    lary_s said; “I a few years the superior product – at not that much more cost will simply be the best buy out there.” Exactly! How many saws are made today without riving knives? We hadn’t heard of them a few years back. Did it take legislation to force the manufacturers to add them to their saws? No. It took market pressure and competition.

    noeINNY said; “… Would an advertisement for the medication showing a sick child be called fear mongering? Maybe by some, but I would be first in line to get the medication for my kid.” Exactly! And it would not take legislation to force you of pharmaceutical companies to do so. Common sense, competition, ethics, and market pressure would take care of it.

    There are others, but I’ll stop there. My point is, all of the reasonable arguments FOR this legislation are really arguments in favor of improving safety. While all the reasonable arguments AGAINST this legislation are really arguments in favor of improving safety. You’re all saying the same thing – tools should be safer AND users of these tools should be more careful!

    The question here is not safety. The question is whether or not improved safety should be mandated by law. Those teachers and mentors you lost respect for (Bill L) most likely take safety as seriously (if not more so) than you or any of the rest of us. We need to keep the emotion and self pride out of this discussion and simply address whether or not legislation is required to protect tasble saw users from serious injury.

    Personally, I mangled two fingers using a molding head cutter on a table saw nearly 30 years ago. It was a terrible mess – and expensive. Had SawStop been invented at that time, I would have still had same the accident because I would have still been using my 50 yr old Delta Homecraft saw (now replaced). All I really needed to avoid this serious injury was a push stick! I was ignorant of that at the time. Now I know. But my point is, no amount of legislation would have saved my fingers.

    If you you think a SawStop or similar technology is required to protect your personal safety or that of people who work for you, by ALL means, buy one – or several! If you think you can avoid serious injury through the use of proper safety devices (push sticks, etc) and safety precautions (never putting yourself in dangerous situations while sawing), then contnue to use your favorite saw. In my humble opinion, the Government (Local, State, or Federal) is not capable of making that decision for me.

    ps. The moment someone manufactures a food processor with blades that will not cut a finger, I’m calling my lawyer and State Representative to insist they develop legislation requiring “active injury mitigation technology” (I just love that term) on all food processors. Oh wait, someone already invented such a gadget? I’m thoroughly disappointed in my elected officials! 😉

  • NoelNNY

    One responder used the key word in this dilemma – workplace safety.

    The state of federal government mandating a citizen to buy a tablesaw which contains what is currently a single source safety device is as wrong as the government mandating all citizens, even the unemployed, must buy and maintain insurance.

    Yes, presently Mr Saw Stop owns the market on this particulat safety device. And it will increase the cost for even the average, weekend home owner.

    What will happen to those costs when a competitor develops and markets a similar device? All one need do is to look at the cost of iPhones and Droids, etc, all different manufacturers in the market place, which only drives up consumer costs.

    I’ve used my table saw for the past 20+ years and never was injured by it – but damned if those pesky utility knives have cut me at least 50 times during the same period.

    What does Mr Das and Mr Sawstop want to do to legislate how consummer’s use utility knives?

    Workplace legislation – fine – but stay the heck out of my workshop – it’s called private property by law.

    And what are Das’ and Mr SawStop’s intended plan should I buy their “mandatory” tool – and I elect to permanently disable it?

    Will I be spending time in Federal lock up – forced to cut lumber on the state approved one and only saw?

    Zieg Heil!! Mein Das und Sawzen Stoppen Fuhrers!

  • Bill Lattanzio

    I think that it’s pretty disturbing that some rather influential woodworkers, including those that write for Popular Woodworking, find that this legislation is a bad thing. As someone who has worked in a production environment and also as a field electrician I have seen many, many serious injuries. Quite a few of those injuries could have been prevented had all of the safety precautions had been taken. SawStop comes along with a technology that basically will keep woodworkers and carpenters from serious, disfiguring injuries and they are called “Fear Mongerers” by many in the woodworking community. Why? Because they invented a technology that nobody else did and when they offered it to tool manufacturers they were told to take a hike? Last time I checked that is called innovation. And to be clear I don’t own any SawStop products. I know a few people that do and they can’t say enough good things about the quality of the saws.
    So now SawStop is somehow the bad guy and the state of California is first runner up because GOD FORBID they want to do as much as possible to make sure that people working on jobsites come home with all ten fingers.
    So whats the problem? Cost? Bull S***. Woodworking is expensive! Even more so if you are a hand tool woodworker. I would bet that their are very few woodworkers reading this magazine who have shops with $250.00 in tools. I am a rank amateur newbe and I have about $5000.00 invested.I once ran my finger over a jointer and they injury cost me nearly $2500.00, and that was after my health insurance footed much of the bill. That money could easily have afforded me a SawStop saw. So if you are injured once the technology pays for itself. Let’s put this in perspective, if, for example, Johnson and Johnson invented a drug that would guarantee that you will never get the flu again if you spend $2500.00 on the pill would that just be too expensive? Would the federal government mandating it be intrusion even though it will save countless millions in medical bills and lost time and possibly even saves lives? Would an advertisement for the medication showing a sick child be called fear mongering? Maybe by some, but I would be first in line to get the medication for my kid.
    I hate to say this but I lost alot of respect for some woodworkers whose writings and offerings taught me much. What a shame.

  • lary_s

    One more step ain’t all bad. Regulation of safety in the work place is NOT about protecting you from yourself or making your purchase for your own use more expensive – its about protecting workers from the “bosses” that are too “cheap” to provide modern adequate safety for the workers.

    Want to work in a line shaft driven 1800’s shop with unprotected belts, blades everywhere with no choice b/c that’s what the boss paid for and you need the work. Ever walk through one running – I cringed and wasn’t even operating the saws.

    A local lumber company still runs a shop with unprotected overhead radial arm saws, table saw, and other saws from before any protection was sold with them. I stopped having them cut my plywood b/c I was afraid one of them would get hurt.

    I actually don’t believe all saw manufactures should be forced to use the sawstop technology however I think it is good to put pressure on them to look more at safety.

    Ignore for a moment the finger sensing technology, why was it that it took SawStop to come up with a far better blade guard and riving knife? Any of the saw manufacturers’ “could” have done it…. but didn’t. It takes about 3 secs. to change between the two, the guard is narrow enough to be used in most situations. Do you unplug the saw every time you touch the blade? making that fine measurement? Why not have a switch right on the front that does that and only takes seconds?

    The thing that impresses me most about SawStop is that, when turned down by all the other saw companies that have been making frankly crappy safety guards etc, is the looked at the whole saw. They looked at every aspect of a very high quality saw and of all the safety components – not just their new invention.

    This is a productivity saw – designed to provide quicker changes, smooth operation, great precision and oh by the way, perhaps save you pain and suffering and much money.

    Actually, I don’t think we need the regulation. I a few years the superior product – at not that much more cost will simply be the best buy out there. My wife already thinks it is which is why I have a SawStop. Delta and General just can’t compete in terms of quality and performance.

  • Fred West

    It boggles my mind the fact that California, through Das Williams, is again trying to legislate something without any knowledge behind it again. Looking through his biography shows nothing that would give me any hope that he knows anything about woodworking. Anyone for a Bullet Train?

    Aside from the fact that I too do not want this forced upon me, consider this. I have a Hammer slider which if used properly is far safer than the SawStop. However, if this legislation is passed, the resale value on my safer saw will plummet. This is low end, imagine owning a Martin or Altendorf and being told that they cannot be resold because they are not safe enough. That is just one unintended consequence. Of course my Delta Contractor saw would just be considered a piece of junk. Fred

  • ewdysar

    I love to read internet comments, people make the most outlandish claims while they try to make a point, life does indeed imitate comedy…

    There will be no buy back program because the proposed legislation does not require retrofits, anyone can operate an old “unprotected” saw as long as they want. As far as the “excessive cost” of returning the saw to operational after you trigger it, I expect that I will never trigger the stop for as long as I live (I’ve never set off air bags either). And if I do, I’ll gladly pay with cash rather than body parts.

    Yes, there are other options besides SawStop. The big players are already gearing up with their own solutions that meet the proposed specifications. They will not be released until mandated. When this happens, I believe that SawStop will go out of business unless they can provide some other reason to purchase their saws rather than all of the other saws that will be just as safe. The funny thing is that this legislation just might guarantee that no major tool manufacturer will ever use the SawStop patent.

    This is just like the way that seatbelts and airbags were phased in. I still have two cars that are perfectly legal in California without seatbelts, although the oppressive California vehicle regulations require that I add a brake light to my car that was built without one (there were actually no electric lights on the car when it left the factory). I’m actually planning on adding turn signals and marker lights also to encourage other drivers to not destroy my car while I’m in it.

  • Eweber

    Here we go again. Fisrt of all I think it’s a pretty cool technology and can help reduce accidents, but there are some issues. Lets start with the fact that this is a moisture sensing technology unable to detect the differance between a finger a hotdog or a piece of damp lumber. The fact that it can be turned off tells me it still needs tweaking. To add to others car analogies, you can’t reach up to the dash and turn off your antilock brakes. The way in which this issue has been “sold” to the CPSC is a bit distasteful.
    The main issue is the slippery slope theory. If this law passes, then whats next. I firmly believe that my tablesaw is neither safe or unsafe, rather that the operater, me, is either safe or not. “I” don’t want to be regulated.
    CA is usually first on these issues, wether for good or bad and we residents will simply have to deal with it the best we can.

  • JReininger

    There once was a state in the west,
    whose politicians knew all that was best.
    For safety they raved,
    to our freedom they caved.
    To thee I raise the finger you saved!

  • Chris652

    The issue I have with SawStop is the inventor is a Physicist and a Lawyer. He’s using his law background to force other manufacturers to adopt his technology. It’s plain unethical behavior. Allow the marketplace to work. Let people choose and let the demand for this product stir more research by other manufacturers to improve safety.

    Look at the table saw accidents that get media attention. No safety devices, pulling a board with you hand a few inches behind the blade, etc. Some people will even try to carve out a bowl by resting a blank on top of the blade and rotating it around the blade with their hands. It’s plain nuts!

    There are alternatives to this technology that shouldn’t force manufacturers to have this device on their saw. My favorite being a sliding table saws that keeps your hands well away from the blade. Beyond that I would expect training and personal responsibility will go a long way toward mitigating a good number of table saw accidents and help prevent injuries from using other machines. There are so many other machine tools that are so much more dangerous the SawStop doesn’t address. Just watch some of the YouTube videos for examples of people doing stupid things with Shapers. Some of it will pop your eyeballs out.

    The comments about pen knives, razor blades aren’t too ridiculous as one commenter notes. The only time I’ve ever taken stitches to a wound has been a stab wound due to a utility knife opening up a 5 gal bucket of paint. There are many, many ways to inflict serious injury to yourself in the shop.

  • jasstack

    I’ve been a professional woodworking for 35 years and I’ve logged thousands of hours behind a table saw. 9 weeks ago, I almost lost my ring finger and tore up my little and middle fingers. The surgeon saved my finger because the nerves were still intact. I was lucky.

    I still believe common sense can’t be legislated. I also believe that a saw-stop setup would have saved me $30,000.00 in medical expenses (well, saved the insurance company the money). That money could have bought several saw-stop table saws. So, therein lies the rub. Saw-stop technology is expensive and retro fitting a saw to accept the new technology costs a lot (I’ve seen $700.00 and up).

    I’m saving up to buy a saw-stop saw, but that’s my decision and no one told me to do so (my wife is all in favor of it because she drove me to the emergency room).

    BTW, the emergency room workers told me they see a table saw injury once a week, sometimes more depending on the time of year.

  • gwatson

    The real problem is that young, entry level woodworkers will learn to use an inherently dangerous tool that has been been cleverly modified to appear less dangerous. The essence of any good safety program is the level of awareness on the part of the tool user. The less experienced users of these modified saws will be less aware of the actual potential for injury that results from poor practices. Once a user has sufficient experience with a standard saw configuration to learn proper use, the modification might make sense. After all, there are many more potential sources of injury in any workshop than just the table saw. I can think of several more effective uses of the $1000 to improve the safety of my shop. Awareness, knowledge, proper use of tools, and common sense cannot be legislated.

  • ebates

    The sawstop is a wonderful piece of American ingenuity, and I am proud of it. Does that mean I should be forced to buy it? I’m convinced that the dangers inherent in my table saw make me a better woodworker. Becuase my table saw is a dangerous tool, I approach it with respect and a great deal of planning and patience. I move slowly around my table saw and really think things through before I flip the switch to “on.” Also, push-sticks, people. There is no reason for your hand to ever come close to the blade. I’m convinced that the patience I have learned from working with a table saw has carried over into all aspects of my woodworking and made me better at it.
    I’m all for airbags and anti-lock brakes in cars, especially for my high-school age boys, BUT I would argue that these safety features result in less-skilled drivers. If the car is going to protect you in case of an accident, you have less incentive to be a good driver. I believe the same to be true of table saws.

  • CessnapilotBarry

    Well said, Areselle and Walsh…

    Personally, I chose to purchase flesh-sensing technology after nearly 20 years of accident-free table sawing. I’m happy there are still SawStop haters, ’cause I got a great return on my 11 year old cabinet saw. I chose to purchase flesh sensing technology because it works, it’s obtainable, and I plan to get as much value from the crematorium as I can some day. Why pay the same to dispose of less body? They can cremate all the fingers I’m paying for. ;^)

    Those that think proven safety gear is “stupid” or “nanny-like” should be required to post proof of full insurance coverage, or a cash bond to cover yourselves in the case of an accident that could have been prevented with available safety gear. This includes safety “technology” like safety glasses and hearing protection.

    Why should I pay higher insurance rates, or hospital fees because you’re thick as a brick? I think you’re fully entitled to lose digits, blind yourself, or go deaf, but you’re on your own…

    An alternative to mandated safety gear might be mandated training, but I haven’t seen it mentioned.

    One a side note, if you’re in my car, you’re wearing your seatbelt, because I don’t want your body crushing me in a crash. If you’re working near me, you’re also going to be using riving knives, personal protection, and proper technique, anytime your choices might affect me.

  • finzona

    I’m not opposed to table saw safety so much as the cost and time involved to fix the SawStop. There has to be a way to instantly stop the saw other than what this company has come up with. Only time and competition will tell.
    I find the chop saw far more dangerous than a table saw. They are in much greater use in general construction. I have seen many more serious injuries from the chop saw than any table saw. When I worked at a level one trauma center of a major hospital not once did I see or hear of an injury by a table saw. There were many emergency cases of chop saw injuries.

  • walsh@iu.edu

    I must admit to being a little surprised by the responses here. It’s not about government impinging on personal freedom; it’s about safety. The comments about toothbrushes and penknives and razor blades are just plain ridiculous. How do we feel about seat belts or airbags? After all, we’re all safe and responsible drivers, right?
    I could go on with a list a mile long here, but you get the picture.

    It boggles the mind that people that will spend thousands of dollars on woodworking equipment, materials and supplies are against spending perhaps $200-$300 more to render one of the most dangerous tools we use daily a little safer. Come on, people!! This is a true piece of good old American ingenuity and we should be proud of it.

  • areselle

    I’m old enough to remember cars sold without seat belts. I can only imagine those who feel their freedom gravely under attack by product safety requirements would have been screaming bloody murder when they became required safety equipment (the auto industry resisted this innovation), and they likely have prepared for armed revolution once most states require that you actually use them. For those who find safety-securing features a metaphysical assault on their dignity and freedom, remember this: you can easy circumvent them (hey guys, you can just hook your left shoulder through the safety belt and so the cops think you’re wearing it — be free!) Yeah, children scream ‘Tyranny!’ when you say they have to do their homework before settling down in front of the TV. This blog is filled with similar hyperbolic Chicken Littleisms. When was the last time someone accidentally slit their jugular with a razor, or cut their hand off with a back saw? Toothbrushes with face shields?!? This sounds like the poorly reasoned whining of spoiled children.

    People have a god given right to do stupid things. But why should the rest of us let the puerile self-assertion of ‘freedom lovers’ force us into the situation of either telling the ‘rugged individualist’ who shows up in the ER with a bloody stump that they’re going to have to take care of that themselves at home — or force some hospital or insurance pool pay for it? Freedom isn’t free, and stupidity is really expensive.

    How could our sense of freedom have become so pathetically diminished that we actually think it is endangered by product safety requirements? Try living in a country where there is precious little freedom. You’ll almost certainly not find anything like a CPSC.

  • affyx

    Makes me wonder, cynic that I am… Are SawStop saws are so darn expensive because they’re paying lobbyists? if their patents are sewn up nicely, this law might remove all competition in Cali

  • Lee

    Another Dumbass decision from California. They should put more time into figuring out how to get out of debt than sticking their noses in other peoples business. Can’t wait for an earthquake that seperates that state from the rest of the nation amd sends them out to sea. Dumbest Democratic State of our nation.

    Who the hell do they think they are telling “We The People” What we have to do. Up Theirs!

  • GunnyGene

    Das would no doubt be horrified to learn that it’s common practice when using a hand saw for the woodworker to rest the saw against a finger for stability and guidance when starting a cut. OMG, why isn’t there a sawstop device to prevent people from sawing their finger with a back saw?

    I also use a knife to clean under my nails. Quick, draft a new bill! Must Eliminate All Sharp Objects From Society. (PS, make sure there’s some money in it for my campaign)

    Bunch of maroons.

  • Julian

    I like the idea of a buy back program but that doesn’t seem to be part of the new proposed law. Apparently justice is served to those who can afford the best lawyers.

  • buddhawan

    What next? remove razor blades from the market because you might get nicked?

    Hummm . . . wonder if there will be a buy-back program from the state for current table saws that do not have these safety features. Its not like we are running a major deficit or anything like that. Rather then solve problems our outstanding legislature will impose more and more rules, the whole time failing to see any connection between their stupidity and the declining economy.

    Maybe its time to consider moving back to Ohio

  • ramster805

    Just because we have the technology to have saw stop devices on a saw doesn’t mean everyone should have it, it should be a choice. We also have the technology to put breath-a-lizer in cars people get killed everyday and we don’t have them in every car. If a person decides to remove a safty feature from any device the tool should then be owners responsibility not the manufactures.

  • metalworkingdude

    What a phenomenally bad idea. Unfortunately, California (where I live) tends to be a predictor of national policy on things like this.

    Did anyone miss the fact that the recent landmark lawsuit on saw safety centered on a saw that already had safety mechanisms that had been removed? Or that in was incorrectly being used?

    I’m all for tool safety, but what about personal responsibility?

  • Dusty

    Next thing you know he’ll be wanted to require all electric tooth brushes sold in California to have face shields.

  • Michael

    Is it too late to give the Peoples Republic of California back to the Mexicans?

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