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“We could prevent 4,000 amputations a year”: fighting for table saw safety in Washington, D.C.

Table saws are by far the most dangerous tools commonly used in schools.

About 40,000 table saw injuries are treated in U.S. emergency rooms every year—including 4,000 amputations.

There is a simple piece of equipment that could prevent virtually 100% of these serious injuries from spinning table saw blades.

A simple saw safety feature

Nearly 15 years ago, Oregon woodworker and patent attorney Steve Gass invented SawStop: the first version of “active injury mitigation” (AIM).

It’s a brake that causes a saw blade to stop in just five milliseconds upon contact with human skin.

This AIM technology is simple and relatively inexpensive. It should be a standard safety feature on every table saw sold in the U.S.

But the power tool industry has been fighting it for years.

Now the victims of these preventable injuries are fighting back.

Consumer protections for table saws

On June 24, safety advocates and a table saw injury victim met with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in Washington, D.C.

That injury victim: D’Amore Law Group client Joshua Ward.

Josh Ward
Josh Ward and leaders from the National Consumers League, a group that’s been fighting for table saw safety for over a decade

Josh sustained three severed fingers, and several broken bones, from an unsafe table saw in his high school shop class. Since then, Josh’s life has completely changed. He has endured seven surgeries, multiple infections, and will never have full use of his right hand.

He asked CPSC commissioners to enact a table saw safety standard that uses the available AIM technology to prevent the injuries like his.

CPSC has known about safe table saw technology for over ten years – it is time for the agency to enact a safety standard” -Joshua Ward

D’Amore Law Group founder Tom D’Amore accompanied Ward to the CPSC meetings. D’Amore says that the CPSC safety standards are particularly important because so many old saws without the table saw safety guard- are still used in schools and businesses.

Except, he notes, for the Oregon high school where Ward was injured. They upgraded the school’s table saw safety technology just a few weeks after Josh lost his fingers.

For more information on table saw safety, see Striving for a Safer Table Sawan NPR series that has been following the table saw safety issue since 2004. 

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