By Colleen Kave, J.D.
A special study on table saw blade-contact injuries has been made available by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) for public comment. Table Saw Blade-Contact Injuries Special Study Report, 2017was compiled by CPSC staff beginning in January 2017 to obtain emergency department-treated, table saw blade-contact injury estimates for saw, incident, and injury characteristics, which are otherwise not available in the standard National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) data collections. Comments on the report are due by February 4, 2019 (CPSC Notice, 83 FR 62561, December 4, 2018).
Background. In May 2017, CPSC published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPR) on a safety standard for table saw blade-contact injuries [see Products Liability Law Daily’s May 12, 2017 analysis]. This rulemaking proceeding began years earlier when, in April 2003, members of SawStop, LLC, and its parent company, SD3, LLC, requested that CPSC require performance standards for a system to reduce or prevent injuries from contact with the blade of a table saw. In October 2011, CPSC published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) to consider whether there may be an unreasonable risk of blade-contact injuries associated with table saws (76 FR 62678).
The NPR, developed to reduce the severity of operator blade-contact injuries on table saws, applies to all table saws, as defined, including bench saws, contractor saws, and cabinet saws. The measure would require table saws to limit the depth of cut to 3.5 mm or less when a test probe, acting as surrogate for a human finger, contacts the spinning blade at a radial approach rate of 1 meter per second (m/s). CPSC Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle expressed disapproval of the proposed standard, questioning whether it made sense to apply the same performance requirements to the three distinct types of table saws and noting that the costs of the proposed rule could exceed the benefits for one or more saw types even though, in the aggregate, the benefits could exceed costs for the market as a whole. The Chairman recommended that the Commission wait for the results of the 2017 special study report before shaping a safety standard.
Report results. The objective of the special study on table saw blade-contact injuries was to collect additional information on incident data identified in the NEISS for table saws. CPSC staff specifically sought information regarding the type of table saws involved in the cases to generate national estimates by saw type, and estimated risk of injury associated with each table saw type; the type and usage pattern of blade guards; and additional injury and incident data.
The report is divided into three tabs. In Tab A, CPSC Directorate for Epidemiology staff summarizes the study’s background, design, and the methodology to generate national emergency department-treated, table saw blade-contact injury estimates. This section of the report also provides the response rates, the national injury estimates and risk estimates, and contains results of a case-level analysis completed by staff. Tab B presents the Directorate for Health Sciences staff’s findings of the analysis of the 2017 NEISS data in terms of the injury diagnoses, and provides the reasoning for the review team’s decision to change injury diagnoses in some cases to characterize more accurately the injuries sustained.
Finally, in Tab C, the Directorate for Economic Analysis staff provides estimates of the number of table saws in use in 2017 and estimates the proportion that were equipped with the modular blade guards required under the seventh edition of UL 987. Additionally, an appendix presents an analysis evaluating the sensitivity of the risk findings developed by the Directorate for Epidemiology to possible variations in the estimated proportion of table saws equipped with the modular blade guard systems.
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