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Table-saw safety bill approved by California Senate panel

Table-saw safety measure aimed at reducing injuries heads to the full California Senate. Much of the opposition is focused on the maker of SawStop table saws.

July 04, 2012|By Marc Lifsher, Los Angeles Times
  • Joe Kehoe, a professional cabinetmaker in Anaheim, likes his SawStop table saw’s ability to stop its whirling blade an instant after the blade touches human flesh. He says he supports the state bill even though his personal politics call for reducing the size of government.
Joe Kehoe, a professional cabinetmaker in Anaheim, likes his SawStop table… (Gary Friedman, Los Angeles…)

SACRAMENTO — Legislation aimed at curbing table-saw accidents that often result in amputations survived a party-line vote in a state Senate committee.

The measure, approved 3 to 2 in the Senate Judiciary Committee, would make California the first state in the nation to require that table saws be equipped with "injury mitigation technology" to stop a blade quickly enough to avoid amputations and severe lacerations.

The Assembly already passed the bill on a 64-4 bipartisan vote. But in the Senate committee vote Tuesday, the bill was approved by the Democrats while the Republicans opposed it.

The bill — AB 2218 by Assemblyman Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara) — heads for the Senate floor for a vote likely to come in August.

The debate on the bill pitted consumer advocates and labor unions in favor of the measure against most of the power tool industry and several retail giants, includingHome Depot Inc.andSears Holdings Corp.Much of the debate has centered on an Oregon company, SD3, that makes SawStop table saws that can shut down in one-hundredth of a second when a finger or hand makes contact with a blade.

The company, owned by inventor and lawyer Stephen Gass, makes the only table saw on the market that meets the bill's criteria.

The industry, led by the Power Tool Institute, a trade group in Cleveland, criticized the bill for attempting to create a monopoly for Gass' company. Proponents have said that Gass' invention has demonstrated that the technology is viable.

Williams said the proposal has been broadened so that many manufacturers could develop their own injury-avoidance devices.

Gass pledged to the committee that he would license his invention, which has more than 90 patents, without discrimination and at a reasonable price to his competitors.

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