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NCL lauds CPSC action to develop national table saw safety standards

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June 14, 2011

Contact: NCL Communications, (202) 835-3323, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Washington, DC—The nation’s oldest consumer organization, the National Consumers League (NCL), today lauded a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) vote to move the agenda forward on achieving a national safety standard for table saws.

According to CPSC’s own data, consumers suffer 40,000 table saw injuries each year, 4,000 of which are finger amputations. That translates into 10 finger amputations every day for those using table saws. In November of 2010, NCL sent a letter to the Chairman and each of the other four CPSC Commissioners, stating that: “NCL strongly urges the Commission to take action toward a performance standard for table saw safety.” The letter and accompanying press release are highlighted below.

NCL letter to CPSC

NCL press release

NCL’s letter noted that there is technology currently available from a company called SawStop that provides nearly complete protection from injuries from table saws. That technology uses sensors to detect the electrical impulse in a finger or other body part—distinguishing flesh from a piece of wood, for example—and drops the blade down in a fraction of a second below the saw to keep it from injuring the user. SawStop has more than 30,000 of these safely-designed saws in the market today—many in high school shop classes—and the company has testimonials from customers of more than 1,000 known “saves”—consumers who have written and sent pictures showing that they have been spared serious injury because of the safety design.

“What SawStop’s table saw design proves is that it is possible to make table saws safe,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL’s Executive Director. NCL’s November 2010 letter urged the CPSC to move forward with a technology-neutral performance standard that simply provides a safe result —i.e., no injuries to users of table saws—while not favoring one technology over another. This CPSC vote accomplishes that crucial first step.

“We are greatly encouraged by the CPSC’s 4-1 vote in favor of its 2011 Operating Plan, which includes the goal of having the CPSC staff prepare a briefing package with an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding table saw safety,” said Greenberg. “With table saws, clearly we have a pattern of injury, we have technology to prevent the injuries, and we can do so for a reasonable cost. The CPSC is greatly advancing the cause of protecting the 40,000 consumers each year who are injured unnecessarily by table saws. We applaud the Chairman for her leadership and look forward to working with her and the Commission in the months to come,” Greenberg said.

The CPSC documents and statement can be found below:

The 2011 Operating Plan is now available on the CPSC Web site – it can be found here. Table saws are mentioned on page 31, as follows:

Table Saws In 2006, the CPSC granted a petition to proceed with a rulemaking process that could result in a mandatory safety standard for table saws to reduce the risk of blade contact injury, and directed staff to draft an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR). The Commission did not vote on the ANPR before it lost its quorum. However, the Commission directed staff to initiate a project to collect additional information on emerging injury-reduction technology to prevent and reduce blade-contact njuries, which has been ongoing. In 2011, the CPSC released an updated study based on data from CPSC’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) that estimated there were 66,900 emergency department treated injuries related to table/bench saw operator blade contact in the United States during the calendar years 2007–2008.

Goal: In 2011, staff will prepare for Commission consideration, a briefing package with an ANPR regarding a performance standard for table saws.

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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.