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Canada Carpentry College Increases Safety with Flesh-Sensing Table Saw

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Schools are getting smart about safety in the woodworking shop.

Last January 2015, Darby High School in Montana purchased a table saw with “flesh-sensing” technology that stops the blade within milliseconds of coming into contact with skin, significantly reducing risk of cuts, avulsions, and amputations.

Now, Selkirk College Carpentry Program in British Columbia, Canada, has done the same, having recently purchased the new industrial SawStop table saw.

Most Table Saw Manufacturers Ignoring Safety Technology

Woodworker Steve Gass invented SawStop in 1999. He introduced the technology to major table saw manufacturers in 2000, but none were interested in licensing the product. Gass decided to manufacture and sell the saws himself in 2004, and has been doing so ever since.

Over a decade later, most table saw manufacturers have yet to implement any sort of flesh-sensing technology, either SawStop or something similar, claiming the addition would make their saws too expensive, and would also open them up to expensive litigation.

According to a Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) study, table saws caused nearly 80,000 hospital emergency room visits between 2007 and 2008. The tool remains the most dangerous of any in the woodworkers’ arsenal. In February 2015, Bangor Daily News reported on a 16-year-old high school student who lost a finger while cutting a piece of wood in class—a warning that children and adolescents remain at risk for serious table saw injuries.

College Carpentry Shop Increases Safety with SawStop

The CPSC estimates that such amputations affect over 3,000 people a year. According to The Nelson Daily, the Selkirk College Carpentry Program shop has just become a lot safer place to learn with the addition of three SawStop table saws.

Carpentry Instructor Dan Brazeau demonstrated the technology by first putting an elk sausage through the saw without the safety system activated. The meat was sliced in two. He then put it through the blade with the system activated. The minute the blade contacts the sausage, it stops—without leaving a mark in the meat.

“The idea is to limit flesh cutting,” said Brazeau. “If you did have an accident, you get a nick instead of a cut.”

The SawStop system uses an electrical current to sense when skin comes into contact with the blade. When that happens, the system activates a brake cartridge that stops the blade from rotating within five milliseconds. It also drops the blade below table level. The brake cartridge and saw blade have to be replaced, but the college believes the price is well worth it to achieve increased student safety.

“A school should be the safety spot possible,” Brazeau said, “so it’s important to have the latest technology.”

Bosch Introduces Second Flesh-Sensing Table Saw

Table saw manufacturer Bosch recently announced a new product called the “Reaxx,” which is the first since SawStop to also include flesh-sensing technology. The machine is similar to SawStop’s products, though with a couple key differences. When the blade senses flesh, the device fires a cartridge that, rather than stopping the blade, drops it below the table and then allows it to gradually stop on its own. This saves the blade, and saves the owner from having to pay to replace it. The cartridge, however, lasts only two times before it needs to be replaced.

In 2010, a Massachusetts jury awarded Carlos Osorio $1.5 million in damages after he lost a couple fingers in an accident with a Roybi table saw. Since then, other plaintiffs have come forward seeking compensation for table saw injuries, demanding an increase in safety standards for woodworkers.

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    […] DeWalt Table Saw Lawsuit Filed Over Lack of SawStop Technology May 14, 2015, aboutlawsuits.com and The Legal Examiner Illinois man claims that saw was defective because it did not feature an available safety technology that would have prevented a severe and permanent injury. Without the feature, complaint says the saws are “unreasonably dangerous.” Most table saw companies ignore new feature, while a major brand introduces one of its own. […]