The Dangers of Table Saws
What are Common Table Saw Injuries?
Unfortunately, table saws cause thousands of operator injuries each year, in spite of the fact that there are often better, safer designs that could prevent such injuries. Of the 79,500-hospital emergency department-treated injuries resulting from table saws in the U.S. from 2007-2008, the operator of the saw was the victim in 95.7% (76,100) of the cases. The most common types of injuries to operators were lacerations (64.8%), fractures (12.2%), and amputations (10.5%). Fingers (89.1%) followed by hands (6.8%) were the body parts most frequently harmed. Many of these injuries resulted in tendon, nerve, and vascular damage or amputation. Long-term consequences of these injuries can include functional and sensory deficits.
These statistics come from the 2009 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) study of stationary saw-related injuries which occurred between January 1, 2007 and December 31, 2008 and were treated in a hospital emergency department within the CPSC’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS).
The 2009 study followed up on the 2001 CPSC’s NEISS study which estimated that 36,400 injuries were associated with stationary saws during the calendar year with 98% of those injured being saw operators. In the 2001 study, lacerations made up the majority of the injuries (68%), followed by amputations (9%), fractures (9%), and avulsions (8%). The majority of the injuries in the 2001 study were damaged fingers—totaling 43,160 cases amounting to 83% of overall injuries. The majority of these injuries were caused by contact with the saw’s blade or being hit by stock or cutting material.
Is There Safety Equipment Available to Prevent Injuries?
While table saws continue to cause serious injuries to operators, there are several types of safety mechanisms that could be incorporated by manufacturers of table saws to better prevent such injuries. One such design is a blade guard.
The primary purposes of blade guards are to prevent wood from falling on a spinning blade resulting in the wood kicking back on the operator and to keep the operator’s fingers safe.
However, these blade guards are often not well incorporated into the saw, allowing for operator removal. Additionally, table saws are often not even equipped with blade guards already installed. In a CPSC “Table Saw Blade Guard Survey” from May 2016, almost two-thirds of respondents (65%) reported that their table saw did not come with the blade guard installed, and that it required installation.
A majority of respondents (80%) reported that there are circumstances that require the blade guard to be removed. Respondents with more experience working with table saws removed the blade guard more often than respondents with less experience.
SawStop: A Device to Reduce Injuries
After witnessing the risks of using table saws, inventor Steven Gass created the SawStop which is a unique blade that carries an electrical current that is continuously monitored. If the saw comes in contact with human skin, a change in current is detected by the blade and an automatic braking system is activated which stops the saw’s blade in about three one-thousandths of a second.
In 2004, after power tool makers repeatedly refused to invest in their safety product, SawStop began making their own brand of saws. It has been suggested that large power tool manufacturing companies do not want a safety device like SawStop to prevail on the market because the availability of such a device could place liability on conventional table saw manufacturers in the event a user becomes injured while using a saw without the added stop technology.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking estimated the average cost of a table saw injury to be around $35,000. Given the tens of thousands of medically treated table saw injuries each year, the total cost per year is estimated to be more than $2 billion.
What are Table Saws Used?
Stationary saws such as the table saw are power tools that do not move due to their size or its type of operation. These saws are commonly bolted onto or mounted on a stand or base. The work is fed into the blade (such as with a table saw or band saw) or the blade is moved onto the work (such as with a radial arm saw or a miter saw) during the operation. These saws may be used in the home, but are also often used in industrial settings, like a workplace.
The U.S. Government’s Response
Since there are about 178 injuries per day (roughly one injury every ten minutes) as a result of working with table saws, in 2017 regulators in Washington, D.C. made an effort to make table saws safer by trying to incorporate an active injury prevention monitoring system for table saws. Unfortunately, these efforts have not been successful, and Congress has denied these attempts in the past. At this point it is unclear whether the Consumer Products Safety Commission will pass a rule requiring all new saws to have an active injury prevention monitoring system.
How You Can Make Your Table Saw Safer
- Keep your saw blade thin and sharp
- Reduce the chance of table saw kickback with a riving knife that attaches to the saw’s throat plate and keeps the material from coming into contact with the back of the blade
- Buy an outfeed stand that will help guide a sagging board up and make it level with the saw table
- Build a better push stick—avoid plastic
- Build a zero-clearance throat plate to reduce the likelihood of wood kicking back at the operator
How GoldenbergLaw Can Help You
GoldenbergLaw has handled thousands of defective product cases. Our lawyers for household products in Minnesota have years of experience, and we want to help you. To be successful with these types of cases, we need to prove that there is a defect with the product.
If you have suffered a serious injury as a result of a product malfunctioning, catching fire, exploding, or failing to be properly guarded, please follow these important steps:
- Get proper treatment for your injuries
- Photograph your injuries and all product evidence
- Keep all product evidence—even the small pieces
- Call GoldenbergLaw for a consultation