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NCL asking CPSC to act on 7 year petition to prevent finger amputations with safer saws

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Release Date: November 24, 2010

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Washington, DC -- In a letter to the Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) sent this week, the National Consumers League is asking the CPSC to finally act on a seven-year-old petition to prevent finger amputations from table saw accidents. The League’s letter to CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum points out that safety technology is available – and has been available for nearly a decade - to prevent finger injuries and should be required throughout the industry.

Sally Greenberg, the League’s Executive Director, says in her letter, “We could have prevented the 10 finger amputations that occur each day from table saw injuries had the Commission acted years ago. The fact that we still allow table saws to amputate fingers – especially in teens who may be using these saws in shop class - is unconscionable. The facts cry out for CPSC attention.”

In 2003, SawStop, makers of table saws that employ technology that prevents the saw blade from cutting off fingers, filed a petition to the CPSC asking that the Commission set a safety performance standard for all table saws.

NCL’s letter notes: “According to CPSC’s own data, a table saw injury occurs once every nine minutes. The average per-accident business cost is estimated to be $67,000. 30,000 people suffer injuries from table saws each year, and over 3,000 suffer amputations. The technology exists – and indeed is being used today by one manufacturer – to prevent the needless and brutal accidents associated with the hazards of using table saws.”

The safety technology involves a detection system such that when the table saw blade senses an electrical signal given off by human tissue – like a finger – the safety system is activated and the blade stops. Clearly the technology is effective, as demonstrated by testimonials from shop teachers, hobbyists, and others who operate table saws.

The League’s letter also notes that the Commission doesn’t have to adopt the exact SawStop technology, but should instead create an industry standard that employs safety technology to prevent accidents. The letter urges the Commission to give the industry a specific time period in which to adopt current technology or develop new technology to prevent these grave injuries and amputations from table saws. The benefits of a performance standard include allowing for innovation and creativity in the design of a table saw with these safety components built in.

“Table saw safety – and the ability of CPSC to take action to protect users of table saws – seems to us to be a classic example of how the Commission’s role was envisioned by Congress when the CPSC was established in 1972. While table saws do have certain inherent hazards, that is not an excuse for failing to enact safety regulations for these products.”

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.