May 25, 2011
Washington, DC -- The National Consumers League and victims of brutal table saw injuries today called on the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to take immediate, decisive steps to set a new, more protective national safety performance standard for table saws.
The move comes as a new CPSC report documents the number of annual table saw injuries is up by 10,000 a year since 2001. Meanwhile, a petition asking CPSC to set a national safety performance standard has been languishing at the Commission since 2003.
“Table saws present an unacceptable risk of severe injury,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “Each year, tens of thousands of people are brutally injured by table saws – including 4,000 amputations – at a cost of more than $2 billion a year to treat victims. This is a major public health and safety issue that cries out for a public policy response.”
Several victims of life-altering injuries and amputations joined NCL in issuing the call to action on CPSC, saying government has a responsibility to mandate that new, safer technologies be used on table saws. To learn more about these victims, the impact of their injuries on their livelihoods and families, and view photos of their injuries, visit www.nclnet.org
Table saws are inherently dangerous and most table saws on the market lack an adequate safety system to protect consumers from accidental contact with the blade, said Greenberg. “The vast majority of table saw manufacturers haven’t changed their technology in 50 years, despite the 40,000 injuries each year. Current safety technology basically consists of plastic guards, which are usually removed because they make it difficult to use the saws effectively.” In a 2006 report, CPSC staff said the current table saw safety standard does not adequately address blade contact hazard.
“Safer-saw technology is available on the market today,” said Greenberg. “Made by a company called SawStop, this technology stops the saw from operating in milliseconds if the blade comes into contact with human flesh by sensing an electrical impulse, preventing serious accidents and often resulting in the user getting nothing more than a nick.
“If a start-up company like SawStop can do it, why can’t well-heeled top manufacturers such as Craftsman, Black & Decker, Ryobi and Dewalt adopt or develop new technologies to prevent grave injuries and amputations from table saws? According to the CPSC, the SawStop technology would increase the cost of table saws by about $100 per saw -- a small price to pay to save a finger.”
This cost stands in stark contrast to the cost of injuries for a victim of a table saw accident. A group of doctors led by hand surgeon Dr. Alexander Shin at the Mayo Clinic conducted a study in 2009 of 134 patients who suffered table saw injuries. They found the mean cost of medical expenses for all patients was $30,754 per injury, including lost wages. The state of Utah thought it was so important for teenagers in woodworking classes to use safer technology saws that it purchased the safer SawStop saws for all public schools.
“We are urging CPSC to begin the process to set a national safety standard for table saws,” said Greenberg. “The standard should require industry to adopt current technology or develop new technology to prevent grave injuries and amputations from table saws.”
A petition asking CPSC to set a performance standard has been stalled since 2003. A 2006 CPSC staff report to the Commission in response to the petition shows a positive cost-benefit analysis to setting a national performance standard for table saws, and recommends granting the petition and proceeding with a rulemaking process that could result in a mandatory safety standard for table saws to reduce the risk of blade contact injury. CPSC voted in 2006 to start the regulatory process, but no action was ever taken. In early 2011, manufacturers of safer saw technologies were invited to present their positions at a CPSC public meeting, but no additional action has been taken.
“Each day we wait for CPSC to act, 10 new amputations occur,” said Greenberg. “We’re throwing away 4,000 fingers each year when safer-saw technology exists. The time for action is now.”
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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.