Many more of these machines are in our schools, workshops, and work places. Every year, thousands of people sustain injuries to fingers and hands, but other parts of the body are prone to injury from objects flying from the rapidly spinning blade as well. Considering a 10-in. blade spins at about 4000 rpm and the outside edge of the blades spins at about 108 mph, the devastation of these injuries is easy to imagine since blade can make a cut about every 370 microseconds.
Compared to other home power tools (including nail guns, chain saws, and circular saws), table saws are the most dangerous home power tool and can deliver catastrophic injuries. Table saw accidents account for somewhere in the neighborhood of 67,000 recorded injuries every year. While lacerations are the most common injury, around 4,000 accidents with table saws involve amputations as a result of direct contact with the rotating blade of table saws. The medical costs for treating table saw injuries have been estimated at more than $2.1 billion every year.
The majority of table saw injuries result from contact with blades that do not have the manufacturer’s plastic blade guard on them because many tasks cannot be performed unless this guard is removed, so of course, most consumers remove the guard. One engineer for the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) linked the high injury toll to the poor design of these guards.
Even with blade guards intact, hover, injury can still occur, and despite the availability of newer, safer technology, these plastic guards on saws have remained untouched for over 50 years.
Kickback occurs when the material flies back toward the operator, accounting for the majority of power saw accidents. Despite this inclusion, injury rates have remained virtually unchanged. Currently, CPSP is considering new proposed safety requirements for manufacturers of table saws in 2015. These new regulations would require that saws meet performance standards designed to prevent injuries resulting in amputations and other serious injuries caused by contact with the rapidly spinning blades. This “flesh-sensing” technology senses when the blade comes into contact with skin and triggers a safety mechanism that stops the blade within milliseconds, preventing most serious cuts and amputations.
While it may seem a strange thing that the power tool industry with all its engineering know-how would be unwilling to use whatever technology is available to it, the bottom line may simply be that there is not enough financial or legal incentive to do so. There are millions of them in use in the U.S. Approximately 500,000 are sold every year and 85% of these include well-known brands such as
by several few unquestioned assumptions, including the fact that table saws are inherently dangerous, and that accidents typically involve carelessness or failure to follow directions. What has changed is that these companies now have the technology to protect those who use their tools in ways they never have before but choose not to do so