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California Senate Denies Tablesaw Safety Law

Making Money  -  Conceptual - Table saw cutting dollar signs - 3Sawstop table saws are very useful, and a lot of craftspeople like them, but it is easy to understand why so many people wanted to push forward an act that would “make people safe” – it wasn’t so much about the safety at all, but rather the desire to sell more of the table saws. So in many people’s eyes, the law has nothing to do with safety, but about companies making more money. Let’s take a look at the recent events in California.

It started with the discussion of some legislation that would have meant that table-saw manufacturers add flesh-detecting technology to their saws if the blades were under 12 inches in size. This legislation has not been passed. The Saw Safety Act, numbered AB 2218, was sponsored by Assemblyman Das Williams and brought up for discussion in February.

If it had been successful then all saws that were manufactured for sale in California as of January 1st 2015 would have been required to have the flesh detection technology built in to them, so that people would be safer if their flesh accidentally came into contact with the saw’s blade.

The State Assembly passed the bill with a margin of 64-4, but when it moved ahead n the STate Senate on the 3rd July it got a 3-2 vote from the Judiciary Committee of the Senate. It was brouht to the Senate in August, and Robert Dutton, a Republican of Rancho Cucamonga, requested that it be rejected – just before the Senate session was adjourned for that year.

The bill had attracted heavy opposition from companies such as Sears, Lowe’s and Home Depot, and it was also not popular with the California Business Properties Association.

The California Retailers Association raised concerns that small retailrs would be adversely affected by raising the tablesaw costs in the market. The people who are against the bill have called for stricter education and training in the safety of using tablesaws, and also want to see better blade guards.

The Power Tool Institute wants to see woodworkers be allowed to purchase whatever kind of product they want, but those who are focused on the safety of the product believe that the bill doesn’t limit choice, rather it promotes safety whatever product you choose.

The inventor of the SawStop tablesaw saftey device, Stephen Gass, said that he thinks the delay to the bill is an unfortunate thing for woodworkers. He said that his invention was all about making woodwork safer for everyone.

Tablesaw in juries cost consumers ten times the purchase price of the item, and Gass has lobbied heavily to see the bill introducted, even going so far as to make more than $46,000 in political contributions.

There have been some critics who have said that they think Gass is aiminy for a monopoly, but Gass insists that other technologies could be used to make tablesaws safe without infringing on any of the patents that are held by SawStop.

Gass noted that there are 70 other saw safety patents that are in work from companies other than SawStop, and these could be used to protect consumers. He wants to see SawStop be known as the best choice, but other products are welcome in the market because the most important thing is to promote safety for the consumers.

Supporers of the bill say that while they have lost the battle, there are stil plenty of other opportunities to make table saws safer, cutting medical costs, and reducing the number of accidents. According to one recent Cosumer Product Safety Commission study, every year 66,900 people require emergency room treatment for injuries relating to table saws and similar devices. There are around 3,500 amputations, and the injury cost amounts to around $2.3 billion.

This issue is definitely something of a hot topic among people who work in woodworking, espeically those who have been a victim of an injury. It will be interesting to see whether the bill passes in the next sitting of the senate, and whether SawStop becomes the default saw safety company for manufacturers and for consumers.

Updated: May 4, 2015 — 8:24 pm
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