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Monday April 24, 2017

Milestone in CPSC Table Saw Project Set to Occur

CPSC's 14-year project on table saw blade contact injuries is set to hit a milestone at an April 27 decisional meeting. The session, delayed from April 5, will address publication of a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPR) that includes provisions for AIMS (active injury mitigation systems).


The postponement occurred following closed, late-March meetings between commissioners and the originator of the project, SawStop President Steve Gass. CPSC's calendar said the purpose was to demonstrate "a small, low-cost table saw to show implementation of active injury mitigation technology is viable on the smallest table saws." Discussion of proprietary information was the reason for closing the meetings.


Gass developed and patented the original AIMS devices and his company was behind the 2003 petition that began the agency's project. SawStop's control of the technology via layers of patents had been concern of others in the industry, who feared CPSC might effectively impose a design standard that would benefit one player over others.


The industry still is showing strong hesitancy, and as recently as late last year (PSL, 12/5/16), asserted that existing blade protection devices are adequate. The new draft NPR (PSL, 1/3/17) seeks to craft a performance standard, stating that table saws must "limit the depth of cut to 3.5 millimeters when a test probe, acting as surrogate for a human body/finger, contacts the spinning blade of a radial approach rate of 1 meter per second."


The draft NPR deals with the issue of patents and design standards by asserting that many of the patents are set to expire in the early 2020s. Certainty about that assessment was one of the lines of questioning by commissioners at last month's briefing by CPSC staff (PSL, 3/27/17).