In 2015, 4,700 people in the US lost a finger [regulations.gov] or other body part to table-saw incidents. Most of those injuries didn't have to happen, thanks to technology invented in 1999 by entrepreneur Stephen Gass. By giving his blade a slight electric charge, his saw is able to detect contact with a human hand and stop spinning in a few milliseconds. A widely circulated video shows a test on a hot dog that leaves the wiener unscathed.
Now federal regulators are considering whether to make Gass' technology mandatory in the table-saw industry. The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced plans [regulations.gov] for a new rule in May, and the rules could take effect in the coming months.
But established makers of power tools vehemently object. They say the mandate could double the cost of entry-level table saws and destroy jobs in the power-tool industry. They also point out that Gass holds dozens of patents on the technology. If the CPSC makes the technology mandatory for table saws, that could give Gass a legal monopoly over the table-saw industry until at least 2021, when his oldest patents expire.
At the same time, table-saw related injuries cost society billions every year. The CPSC predicts switching to the safer saw design will save society $1,500 to $4,000 per saw sold by reducing medical bills and lost work.
"You commissioners have the power to take one of the most dangerous products ever available to consumers and make it vastly safer," Gass said [npr.org] at a CPSC public hearing on Wednesday.