When considering the purchase of a table saw, safety is an important factor. The SawStop table saw has introduced innovative safety features that reduce the risk of injury, but it comes at a price. So, how do you decide if a SawStop table saw is worth the price. You need to evaluate its safety benefits in relation to the potential medical costs and personal impact of table saw injuries.
Of course, we all have a budget to consider. And for some of us, maybe our typical project doesn’t present the same level of risk as others. There’s no right or wrong answer, but it’s important to have all the facts at hand when making your decision.
Table saw injuries are an unfortunate reality in the United States, with a significant number of people affected each year. According to Commissioner Robert S. Adler of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), these accidents can have life-altering consequences that are both physically and financially devastating. The inherent safety features of a SawStop table saw, such as the blade stopping technology, reduce the risk of these accidents and protect users from the high medical costs and the emotional toll associated with losing the use of a finger or hand.
When weighing the additional cost of a SawStop table saw against the potential savings in medical expenses and the preservation of one’s ability to work and engage in daily activities, it’s essential to understand the true value of safety. In the following article, we will further explore the statistics of table saw injuries, the impact on individuals and their families, and how the SawStop table saw measures up to other options in the market in terms of safety and cost-effectiveness.
My Personal Perspective
I personally do not own a SawStop, nor am I affiliated with SawStop in any way. I am not being sponsored or compensated for this article. However, I am very seriously considering a SawStop when I upgrade my current saw. In the meantime I continue to try and make smart decisions, keep my hand away from the blade and avoid careless use of this dangerous tool. But accidents happen.
I still remember vividly a close call when I was about 16. I was using my dad’s small Beaver table saw, cutting some pieces that were way too small without appropriate safety measures. The piece caught the blade and pulled my hand towards the blade. I was lucky to escape that incident with a small nick to my thumb. It was my fault, but we all have to learn, and we all make mistakes. Almost 30yrs later I have avoided any further close calls, but it may be in part thanks to the close call where I was only lucky to escape without serious injury.
We can get distracted, have a muscle spasm, lose our grip. Or we may simply not realize that a particular cut has the potential for kickback, pulling a hand towards the blade. Internal stresses in the work piece can cause pinching or spring back. It’s a dangerous tool with many things to keep track of and many potential influences to cause injury.
There is a subset of users out there that claim that the technology is not necessary. ‘All that is required is experience and caution’. You can often here the refrain in discussion boards, “I’ve been using a table saw for 55yrs and I still have all my fingers!”. Well, I’m glad that is the case, but not everyone is so fortunate. It’s like people used to say, “I always used to drive home after a few beers. I never had an accident!”. Well that may be true, until it’s not. Is it really worth the risk? Are you really so special, or have you just been fortunate? And if you have in fact been fortunate. then statistically there is some less fortunate soul out there struggling to tie his own shoe laces…
I’m sure there are some people who survived the novice phase of woodworking and became so skilled, while being so safe and cautious that they may never experience an accident. But for the rest of us, additional safety measures are more than just a luxury. Think of all the reasons we value our hands? Typing, writing, driving, playing musical instruments; the list goes on.
SawStop Table Saw Overview
The SawStop table saw has gained popularity due to its advanced safety features designed to reduce table saw injuries. In this section, let’s explore the technology, features, and pricing of SawStop table saws compared to other table saws on the market.
Technology and Features
SawStop’s primary feature is its patented safety system, which dramatically reduces the risk of injury from accidental contact with the saw blade. This system senses the difference in electrical capacitance between wood and the human body. When it detects contact with skin, the saw’s braking mechanism activates within milliseconds, stopping the blade and retracting it below the table surface. In addition to this innovative safety feature, SawStop table saws also include other features like high-quality construction, precision cutting, and user-friendly controls, making them a top choice for both professionals and hobbyists alike.
Though SawStop table saws can be more expensive than other table saws on the market, it is important to consider the potential costs of table saw injuries when evaluating the overall value of the saw. Based on SawStop’s website, a SawStop brake cartridge replacement costs ~$95USD, which is significantly less than the potential medical expenses associated with a table saw injury. Many users argue that the added cost of a SawStop table saw is worth it simply for the peace of mind and the increased safety it provides, especially when factoring in the financial and emotional consequences of table saw accidents.
Table Saw Injury Statistics
United States Data
Table saws are widely used for woodworking tasks, but they can also be dangerous if not operated properly or if they don’t have adequate safety features. In the United States, table saw injuries account for a significant number of emergency room visits each year. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the societal cost of table saw injuries in 2015 was $4.06 billion.
Severity and Frequency
Many table saw injuries can be severe and even life-altering. The frequency of these injuries is also concerning: every year, approximately 40,000 table saw injuries occur, with around 4,000 of these resulting in amputations, according to Popular Woodworking. This is pretty consistent with the reporting of the Consumer Product Safety Commissions (CPSP) below. Medical costs for these injuries can be significant, often adding up to tens of thousands of dollars.
Although specific data is sometimes difficult to parse to specific tools, the Consumer Product Safety Commission provides data on injuries by major tool category, tool subcategory and body part and injury type. The tables below shows the overall statistics of home injuries by the major categories identified by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
As you can see, power saws are second only to the very broad category of ‘Manual Tools’ with over 400,000 injuries in 2021. If we dig deeper into the categories that relate most to a home workshop (Power tools excl. Saws, Power Saws and Manual Tools), and then filter by injuries to fingers and hands, the ‘Saws’ category reports the majority of the injuries. Over a Quarter Million injuries in 2021 alone.
We can dig further into the category of ‘Power Home Workshop Saws’ and look at the types of injuries most prevalent, filtering specifically by Amputations, Lacerations and Avulsion. Notice that finger amputations alone account for 35,340 injuries in a single year. Lacerations is a broad category, but can include severe, life-altering injuries that affect use, dexterity and chronic pain in the hand.
Beyond the direct medical costs, the impact of losing the use of fingers or hands can be immense for the individual affected. Loss of dexterity, reduced ability to work in certain professions, and a diminished quality of life are just some of the potential consequences of a severe table saw injury.
Given these statistics, the argument for investing in a SawStop table saw becomes more compelling. By incorporating advanced safety features designed to prevent injuries, such as their patented brake system that stops the blade within milliseconds of detecting contact with skin, a SawStop table saw can significantly reduce the risk of accidents.
According to a Statement by Commissioner Robert S. Adler discussing the CPSC Proposed Mandatory Standard Regarding Table Saws:
“CPSC has jurisdiction over roughly 15,000 product categories. Of all these, table saws have the dubious distinction of constituting the number one source of consumer product amputations, comprising almost 20 percent of all reported amputations.” (Source)
Think about that. 15,000 product categories and yet table saws account for 20% of all amputations! Talk about a disproportionately high risk…
Medical Costs of Table Saw Injuries
Table saw injuries are not only emotionally and physically painful, but they can also be financially burdensome. Understanding the medical costs associated with these injuries can help individuals evaluate the worth of investing in a SawStop table saw.
Treatment and Rehabilitation
Medical costs for the treatment of table saw injuries are estimated to be more than $2 billion every year (2014 Reporting). These expenses can include emergency room visits, surgical procedures, post-operative care, and physical therapy. In some cases, amputations are required, further increasing the medical costs.
Another factor to consider is the cost of rehabilitation. Physical and occupational therapy may be necessary for individuals to regain the use of their injured hand or fingers. Additionally, there may be expenses related to prosthetics or adaptive devices, depending on the severity of the injury.
According to a study published in the Journal of Hand Surgery, the estimated lifetime healthcare cost for finger amputation in the United States is approximately $28,000 to $60,000. However, the actual cost can vary widely depending on the severity of the injury, the type of treatment required, and other individual factors such as insurance coverage and geographic location. “Lifetime Healthcare Costs of Finger Amputation Injury.” Journal of Hand Surgery, Volume 43, Issue 9, September 2018, Pages 821-827.
Beyond the immediate medical costs are the long-term financial impacts of table saw injuries. The total yearly cost to the public has been estimated to be around $4.06 billion, taking into account not just the medical expenses but also lost productivity, wages, and quality of life. Loss of use of fingers and hands can significantly affect a person’s ability to work and perform daily activities.
In many cases, individuals may require ongoing medical care, including additional surgeries, therapy sessions, medications, and assistive devices. These long-term costs can substantially impact not only the individual who suffered the injury but also their family and the larger community.
Evaluating the additional cost of a SawStop table saw against the inherent safety benefits and the potential medical costs of table saw injuries can help woodworkers make an informed decision about their choice of equipment.
Personal Impact of Injuries
Table saw injuries can have long-lasting consequences that extend beyond the initial physical trauma. Individuals who experience loss of use of their fingers or hands as a result of table saw accidents are likely to face considerable challenges in their personal and professional lives, as well as psychological effects stemming from their injuries.
Personal and Professional Life
Loss of use of fingers and hands can significantly impact one’s ability to perform everyday tasks such as cooking, dressing, and personal grooming. Moreover, the physical limitations may also hinder participation in hobbies and recreational activities that previously brought enjoyment to the individual.
In the professional realm, recovering from a table saw injury can mean extended time away from work or even permanently altered career paths. Depending on the nature of their work, individuals who rely on manual dexterity and hand function may be unable to perform their job tasks effectively. This can lead to a loss of income and potentially long-term unemployment, adding further financial strain to the already high medical costs associated with table saw injuries.
Dealing with the loss of use of fingers and hands can have significant psychological effects on table saw accident victims. It is not uncommon for individuals to experience feelings of grief, anger, frustration, and depression as they cope with their new reality.
In addition to these emotional challenges, there may also be social consequences, such as isolation, as the injured person may feel self-conscious about their physical appearance or be hesitant to engage in social activities that involve using their hands. In some cases, individuals may also develop anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder after a table saw injury, which can further impact their overall well-being and quality of life.
Evaluating the Worth of SawStop Table Saws
In this section, we will assess the value of SawStop table saws by considering their additional cost compared to the inherent safety they provide. We will discuss table saw injury statistics in the United States and compare these figures to the medical expenses associated with such injuries, as well as the impact of losing the use of fingers and hands.
Although SawStop table saws may have a higher upfront cost, investing in this technology could save users from costly medical expenses and long-term consequences of injuries. Table saw injuries are prevalent in the United States, with around 30,000 emergency room visits each year attributed to table saw accidents.
Medical costs associated with these injuries can be substantial, ranging from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars per incident. The additional cost of a SawStop table saw is a fraction of these medical expenses, making it a proactive investment in safety.
As noted in this report from the National Library of Medicine:
The increased costs of a SawStop cabinet saw over one without SawStop technology is approximately $700
$700 seems a small price to pay for piece of mind. And the additional cost of replacing the brake cartridge ($89), and likely the blade (~$100), will be considered money well spent after avoiding a life-altering injury.
Prevention and Peace of Mind
A key advantage of SawStop table saws is their ability to greatly reduce the risk of severe injuries. The technology immediately stops and retracts the blade upon contact with skin, preventing catastrophic injuries in most cases. According to SawStop, their saws have already prevented thousands of serious injuries since their introduction.
By investing in a SawStop table saw, users can enjoy increased peace of mind while working with the tool, knowing that their risk of severe injury is significantly reduced. This added sense of security can contribute to a safer and more enjoyable woodworking experience.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), approximately 66% of table saw injuries involve contact with the blade. This includes injuries to the fingers, hands, and arms. The remaining 34% of injuries are typically caused by kickback, which occurs when the workpiece is propelled back towards the operator after it contacts the blade. Kickback injuries can be severe and can result in lacerations, fractures, and other types of injuries. It’s important to note that many table saw injuries can be prevented by using proper safety equipment, such as blade guards and push sticks, and by following safe work practices.
Impact of Loss of Use of Fingers and Hands
Beyond the immediate medical costs, it is important to consider the long-term implications of table saw injuries. Losing the use of fingers or hands can significantly impact a person’s quality of life and one’s ability to perform daily tasks or pursue hobbies, such as woodworking. Furthermore, such injuries can also result in lost income and reduced career opportunities, adding to the financial burden of the incident.
By investing in a SawStop table saw, users can minimize the risk of life-altering injuries and protect their overall well-being. While the upfront cost may be higher, the potential benefits far outweigh this expense, making these table saws a valuable investment in long-term safety and productivity.
In evaluating the worth of a SawStop table saw, it’s essential to consider the safety benefits and potential medical costs associated with table saw injuries. Table saw accidents can lead to severe injuries and long-lasting effects on the injured person’s life due to the loss of use of fingers and hands.
While SawStop technology comes at a higher initial cost, the added safety feature of the SawStop tech can significantly reduce the risk of table saw injuries. This can potentially save individuals from incurring substantial medical costs and dealing with the physical and emotional consequences of a table saw accident.
When comparing the additional cost of a SawStop table saw to traditional table saws, it’s crucial to weigh the value of safety and injury prevention. For professional woodworkers and hobbyists alike, investing in a SawStop table saw can provide peace of mind and contribute to a safer working environment.
In conclusion, the value of a SawStop table saw extends beyond its price tag, offering essential safety features that can have a lasting impact on the user’s well-being. With the high incidence of table saw injuries in the United States, it’s worth considering this innovative technology as a worthwhile investment to minimize risk and enhance safety in the workshop.
Below are some additional resources where you can find further information on the statistics of injuries and their impacts.
- Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC): https://www.cpsc.gov/Research–Statistics/Injury-Statistics/Power-Tools/Table-Saws
- National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS): https://www.cpsc.gov/Research–Statistics/NEISS-Injury-Data
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/machineguarding/saws/table_saws.html
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/
- American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS): https://www.plasticsurgery.org/news/blog/the-high-cost-of-table-saw-injuries
Frequently Asked Question
Here are some frequently asked questions and answers regarding table saw safety and SawStop technology:
Q: How effective is a saw stop at preventing personal injuries?
A: According to a study conducted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), SawStop technology is highly effective at preventing serious injuries. The study found that SawStop technology can prevent 90% of serious injuries that would otherwise occur with a standard table saw. The study also found that SawStop technology is effective at preventing injuries to both experienced and inexperienced users.
Q: What is the most common cause of table saw injuries?
A: The most common cause of table saw injuries is contact with the blade, which can result in cuts, amputations, and other serious injuries.
Q: How can I prevent table saw injuries?
A: You can prevent table saw injuries by using proper safety equipment, such as blade guards and push sticks, and by following safe work practices, such as keeping your hands and fingers away from the blade and not wearing loose clothing or jewelry.
Q: What should I do if I’m injured while using a table saw?
A: If you’re injured while using a table saw, you should seek medical attention immediately. You should also report the injury to your employer and file a workers’ compensation claim if you’re eligible.
Q: Can I prevent kickback on a table saw?
A: You can minimize the risk of kickback on a table saw by using a riving knife, anti-kickback pawls, and proper feeding techniques, such as keeping the stock flat on the table and against the fence.
Q: How can I minimize the risk of blade contact injuries while using a table saw?
A: You can minimize the risk of blade contact injuries by using a blade guard, keeping your hands away from the blade, using push sticks or blocks to guide the material, and not wearing loose clothing or jewelry.
Q: How can I maintain my table saw to ensure safety?
A: You can maintain your table saw to ensure safety by keeping it clean and well-maintained, regularly checking and adjusting the blade and fence, and replacing worn or damaged parts.
Q: What safety features should I look for in a table saw?
A: You should look for a table saw with safety features such as a blade guard, riving knife, anti-kickback pawls, and a flesh-detection system, such as the SawStop system.
Q: How do I properly use a table saw?
A: You should properly use a table saw by following safe operating procedures, such as keeping your hands away from the blade, using push sticks or blocks to guide the material, and not wearing loose clothing or jewelry.
Q: Is it safe to wear gloves when using a table saw?
A: No, it is not safe to wear gloves when using a table saw. Wearing gloves can increase the risk of injury because they can reduce dexterity, making it more difficult to control the saw accurately and increasing the chance for kickback, binding, and burning of material. Additionally, gloves can get caught in the blade, which can pull your hand and even arm into the cutting path, causing serious injury. Therefore, it is recommended to avoid wearing gloves when operating a table saw or any other power tool. Instead, use push sticks or blocks to guide the material and keep your hands away from the blade.
Q: Will wearing gloves affect the SawStop safety mechanism from detecting blade contact?
A: Wearing gloves should not affect the SawStop safety mechanism from detecting blade contact. The SawStop safety system is designed to detect the electrical conductivity of human skin, which is not significantly affected by the presence of gloves. In fact, the SawStop website’s frequently asked questions section specifically states that the safety system will protect you even if you are wearing gloves, and that in that case, the system will trigger when the blade cuts through the glove and touches your skin. However, it’s important to note that wearing gloves is not recommended when using a table saw or any other power tool, as it can increase the risk of injury by reducing dexterity and increasing the chance of getting caught in the blade. Therefore, it is generally recommended to avoid wearing gloves when operating a table saw or any other power tool, regardless of the type of safety mechanism in place.
Q: What is a SawStop?
A: A SawStop is a type of table saw that is equipped with a safety feature that can prevent personal injuries. When the saw blade comes into contact with skin, the safety feature triggers a mechanism that stops the blade from spinning.
Q: Do I need to wear personal protective equipment when using a table saw?
A: Yes, you should always wear personal protective equipment when using a table saw. This includes eye protection, hearing protection, and appropriate clothing and footwear.
Q: How can I ensure that my table saw is properly maintained?
A: You can ensure that your table saw is properly maintained by regularly inspecting it for damage or wear, keeping it clean and free of debris, and following the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule.
Q: What is SawStop technology?
A: SawStop technology is a safety feature that can be installed on table saws. When the saw blade comes into contact with skin, the safety feature triggers a mechanism that stops the blade from spinning.
Q: How does SawStop technology work?
A: SawStop technology works by detecting contact between the saw blade and skin. When contact is detected, the safety feature triggers a mechanism that stops the blade from spinning within milliseconds. The mechanism releases a spring-loaded aluminum pad retained by a fusible link into the spinning blade. The momentum of the blade as it plunges into the aluminum pad results in the blade stopping and also dropping immediately below the surface of the table saw.
Q: How quickly does SawStops safety mechanism react when it contact skin?
A: When the saw detects the electrical capacitance of human skin it stops the blade and thrusts it below the table saw surface within 5 milliseconds of contact.
Q: Can SawStop technology prevent all table saw injuries?
A: SawStop technology is highly effective at preventing serious injuries, but it cannot prevent all table saw injuries. Kickback injuries, for example, can still occur even with SawStop technology installed on a table saw. Blade contact, however, usually results in the most severe injuries.
Q: Can I retrofit my existing table saw with SawStop technology?
A: No, there is currently no commercially available solution offered by SawStop to retrofit their technology to other table saw brands.
Q: Are SawStop-equipped table saws more expensive than standard table saws?
A: Yes, SawStop-equipped table saws are typically more expensive than standard table saws. However, the cost of a SawStop-equipped table saw may be offset by the potential cost savings from preventing serious injuries.
Q: Are there any downsides to using SawStop technology?
A: Some users have reported that SawStop technology can be triggered by non-human contact with the blade, such as when cutting wet or conductive materials. Additionally, some users have reported that SawStop technology can damage the blade and require more frequent blade changes. Also, some people claim that having the SawStop technology results in complacency around table saw safety, however there is no evidence to prove this point.
Q: Are SawStop table saws consider good quality saws?
A: Yes, SawStop table saws are generally considered to be of very good quality. SawStop is a well-respected brand in the woodworking industry, and their table saws are known for their precision, durability, and safety features. In addition to their signature safety system, SawStop table saws are also designed with high-quality components, such as cast iron tables, powerful motors, and accurate fences. They are often used by professional woodworkers and DIY enthusiasts alike, and are generally regarded as a top-tier option in the table saw market.
Q: What is the controversy surrounding SawStops patent litigation in the United States?
A: The controversy surrounding SawStop’s patent litigation in the United States relates to the company’s efforts to enforce its patents on its safety technology, which is designed to stop the blade of a table saw when it comes into contact with human flesh. Some critics argue that SawStop’s aggressive enforcement of its patents has limited competition in the market for table saws and has led to higher prices for consumers. Additionally, some have criticized SawStop for refusing to license its technology to other manufacturers, which they argue could have led to wider adoption of the safety feature and prevented injuries. SawStop has defended its patent enforcement efforts, arguing that they are necessary to protect its intellectual property and to ensure that its safety technology remains effective and reliable. The controversy surrounding SawStop’s patent litigation has been ongoing for many years and has involved multiple legal battles and disputes within the woodworking industry.
Q: Do SawStop table saws have good dust collection?
A: SawStop table saws are generally considered to have good dust collection capabilities. Many SawStop models come with a dust collection port that can be connected to a dust collection system or vacuum, which helps to remove sawdust and debris from the workspace. Additionally, some SawStop models also feature a floating dust collection blade guard, which is designed to capture sawdust and debris at the source, before it can spread throughout the workspace.
Q: How long does it take to replace the cartridge on a SawStop Table Saw?
A: Replacing the brake cartridge on a SawStop table saw is a relatively simple and quick process, and can take as little as 90 seconds to complete, according to the SawStop website’s frequently asked questions section. The process involves removing the old cartridge and inserting a new one, which can be done without any special tools or expertise. However, it’s important to note that replacing the brake cartridge is only one part of the process of restoring a SawStop table saw after the safety system has been activated. Users will also need to evaluate the condition of the blade for future use and may need to replace it as well. Additionally, it’s important to follow all safety guidelines and instructions when replacing the brake cartridge to ensure that the process is done safely and effectively.
Q: When a SawStop activates, is the blade ruined?
A: When a SawStop safety system activates, the blade is typically ruined and needs to be replaced. The safety system is designed to stop the blade within 5 milliseconds of contact with human flesh, which can cause damage to the blade. Additionally, the blade may be damaged by the brake cartridge, which is designed to stop the blade by applying pressure to it. While it’s possible that the blade may be salvageable in some cases, SawStop generally recommends against repairing or reusing blades that have been caught in a brake activation.
Q: Is it ok to use a saw blade that is painted, like the red Diablo blades?
A: Yes, any standard steel blade with steel or carbide teeth can be used. Avoid using non-conductive blades or blades with non-conductive hubs or teeth, for example, diamond blades or composite blades.
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