Shop safety is a shared responsibility.
We depend on tool makers to provide well-designed and properly manufactured products so we can work with confidence.
But we need to read and heed all of the safety warnings that come with tools — and not attempt to circumvent any of the guards and safety interlocks built into them.
Table saws account for a significant percentage of power tool accidents, partly because they’re so widely used.
Many table saw accidents occur because users permanently remove the blade guard, splitter and anti-kickback pawls.
Doing so may make using the tool more convenient, but it’s also infinitely more dangerous.
To reduce the possibility of injury in the HANDY shop, we use a SawStoptable saw.
This saw features “flesh-detecting” technology that instantly stops and lowers the blade if your hand (or hot dog – click here for a video demo), for example, comes in contact with it.
(SawStop received a HANDY Innovation award for its contractor’s saw in 2008.)
I believe every commercial job site and institutional shop should be equipped with this type of saw.
The greatly reduced risk of injury (and the associated medical costs) more than justifies the saw’s higher price.
This saw is also a good choice for DIYers who want an extra margin of safety and can afford to pay for it.
But the development of this safety feature has created a controversy: Because of a persuasive lobbying effort by the owners of SawStop, the patented technology that the company owns could become mandatory for all table saws.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is currently reviewing whether to make SawStop’s technology a requirement, a ruling that, depending on licensing fees, manufacturing costs and other factors, could make table saws restrictively expensive.
After researching the facts of the case, I think mandating SawStop’s technology across the board is unnecessary and counterproductive.
Table saws are only part of the power-tool safety problem.
Almost any tool can cause a serious injury when used improperly.
I’d like to see technology address the hazards of using shapers, circular saws, routers, planers and other high-risk tools.
Even so, I know that technology alone can’t eliminate risk.
There’s no substitute for staying alert and focused and strictly adhering to safe work practices.