A mandate, within reason

Flesh detection technology is the term being used, and it’s creating quite a stir.

I am on the fence about the whole thing. Like anything else, it’s a hotly contended issue. Personally, I agree with A.J. (“It’s coming. Deal with it.”) in that it’s going to happen, like it or not. My biggest issue is the idea of mandating by law the purchase of a specific product.

I have the same issue with mandating the purchase of health insurance. Insurance is a product. And to me, the idea of passing a law that every man, woman and child in the country purchase that product is appalling. It could be argued that one is required by law to purchase auto insurance if they operate an automobile on a public roadway. But there is no law that requires one to buy an automobile. Nor is there a law requiring anyone to buy a table saw.

With the table saw question I could probably swallow the mandate to include the technology on all new saws sold in this country. But I would balk at requiring manufacturer’s to incorporate a specific technology or product.

I also think we should maintain as much reason on the subject as possible. I seriously doubt that the safety police will be raiding shops and garages, confiscating table saws and forcing the purchase of new ones. Let’s not get carried away!



  • A.J. Hamler says:

    Laws won’t (can’t) mandate a specific product. The analogy of mandating health insurance — don’t get me started on that — doesn’t quite fit. The government can mandate health insurance, but not a specific health insurance product. That is, they can’t mandate that you get Aetna insurance or Blue Cross insurance, which are the specific products.

    If — make that when — the gov’t mandates flesh-sensing technology, they won’t (can’t) mandate that it be Steve Gass’ specific flesh-sensing product, but rather flesh-sensing technology in general from a non-specific maker/supplier. An analogy — the gov’t mandates airbags in cars, but they don’t mandate a specific airbag product/design. The automakers, as long as they include airbags, are free to use airbags designed by anyone.

    The same will be true with flesh-sensing technology. At the moment, there is only one product of this type *that we widely know about.* I’ll bet you a dinner that every manufacturer has been working on their own version for years, and when the day comes that it’s mandated you won’t be able to swing a dead cat without hitting one version or another of the technology suddenly being introduced by the manufacturers themselves.

    And you’re absolutely right — once the mandate happens, nobody is going to confiscate or make illegal any existing table saw. That’s why classic ’57 Chevies didn’t disappear once airbags were mandated.

  • Rob Retter says:

    “It could be argued that one is required by law to purchase auto insurance if they operate an automobile on a public roadway. But there is no law that requires one to buy an automobile.”

    Yes, but one can — and certainly will — make use of health services, if only the emergency room when one cuts one’s fingers off with one’s table saw. So the “do without a car” analogy fails because nobody “does without” health care at some point.

  • Well said! Thank You David

  • I’ve got mixed feelings on the issue. There are a huge number of old and older table saws out there, that are wonderful. I’d like to be able to buy an “add on” saw stop, or some other manufacturer’s whose device does the same thing. I’d hate to trash a perfectly good saw because of the absence of this device. But I must saw, one injury and a lawsuit will buy a lot of saw stoppers. Bob

  • Mike Olson says:

    With auto insurance most states require proof of financial responsibility. If you don’t have deep pockets at least competition in the insurance industry allows you to shop for the best rates and coverage
    The way the mandates are being set up for the table saw technology, and the way patent protection is set up, the options are more limited.

    I always am at issue with the government getting involved with safety issues. Common sense and government regulations are rarely synonymous.

    As a 19 year old I was allowed to hang out of the door of a C130 as an assistant jump master. Now I could be subject to fines for working more then 6 feet off the ground on a carpentry job.

  • Charles Moore says:

    I personally believe in safety. In say that I also believe that a person/operator has a large responsibility in ussing his/her good sense to keep himself/herself safe. The government or laws coannot provide common sense to all people and those that do not have good sense should learn how to deal with it and not cause unnecessary requirements on those that do have good sense. Attorneys and politicians must realize that they cannot protect all people from every possible incident. Presenly I do not believe our legal system or political system beleives everyone has a major resopnsiblility in their life/safety. People need to learn to take responsibilit in their actions or inactions.

  • It is not the governments job to mandate common sense. If I want a saw with this technology I will buy one.

  • C.Damman says:

    Where does it stop ? The foundation for socialism are being laid as we speak and no one seems to be able to stop it ! Enjoy your freedom while you can it soon will become a thing of the past.

  • rgh says:

    Requiring manufacturers to include safety features into their products is not a problem, but as you stated, specifying a particular technology is. if the government wants to release the patent rights associated with a technology so any company can make a version, then it makes sense to require all new equipment to incorporate something provided it can be done cost effectively. With regards to health insurance, if you are going to tax the public, then tax them, but don’t try to hide behind the Commerce act so you can hide the taxation. We should tax for chronic illnesses like heart disease or diabetes. Once you have them, it is no longer a risk, and should be a cost born by all citizens. This would lower the cost of premiums, making it affordable for small businesses and individuals to participate, and would highlight to social cost of not managing societies vices.

  • I can’t let your inappropriate comparison to buying health insurance go without comment. It is niave people like you that are opposed to this. You probably are opposed to socialism and yet you support it by paying high premiums for insurance or paying outragious hospital bills so the uninsured can walk in and not have to pay. If you don’t believe me, think about the fact that there are hospitals that can’t turn away people that need their services. How do you think that gets covered?

    Stick to a subject you know about, like woodworking

  • Chuck says:

    Driving is a privilege – not a right. Your automobile can quickly do serious damage to an innocent driver, passenger, or pedestrian who is driving on the same public road as you are. If you wish the privilege of driving, the price is mandatory insurance. Nothing wrong with that.
    Making products out of wood happens to be a right that we citizens (currently) enjoy. I do it in my basement with my privately owned equipment and I do it on the property of others with their consent and under conditions strictly controlled by me. You might make a case that my saw on the property of others needs to be controlled and that is an issue for another time. My concern is what safety equipment will be on my saw when it is on my property and that is none of the government’s business.

  • Don Thomson says:

    “I seriously doubt that the safety police will be raiding shops and garages, confiscating table saws and forcing the purchase of new ones. Let’s not get carried away!”

    Based on the actions of this current administration and their followers, it wouldn’t surprise me if that is exactly what the government would do to generate more taxes/fees and enact more control over it’s subjects.

  • Brian Olson says:

    Hi David,
    With regards to the healthcare mandate: I agree that you shouldn’t be required to purchase health care insurance. But what happens if you have no insurance and come down with a serious illness, or have a serious illness and cannot afford care? With Obamas plan, if you cannot afford insurance, the goverment will provide it for you; if you can afford it, then you need to aquire it so that you are not a burden to the rest of us.

  • Gregg Miller says:

    David, I agree with you only in part. When we talk about requiring all who currently don’t have health insurance to buy it, there is also the freedom of choice as to what to get. Frankly I agree with the health insurance mandate, because I’m fed up with having to pay higher insurance premiums for those who are on a “free ride” for medical treatment. I’m more inclined to say no insurance, sorry no treatment. By natural selection, premiums may even have a chance to come down in cost.

    I am against the California approach to “flesh detecting technology” mandate because it’s sets a very dangerous precedent to support Mr Gass’monopoly! The law should state that within a certain number of years – say three to five — that all saw manufacturers include some type of technology on new saws. This approach at least will generate competition in the industry, and not encourage monoplies to exist.

    However, you can’t write a law against stupidity or lack of common sense when using power tools of any kind. Keep in mind, hand tools are hand powered. So what are you going to do, write a law against people slamming their own thumbs with a hammer. Let’s get real here folks!

  • Richard Heines, Jr. says:

    If the safety police come on my property they better have their insurance paid up!!!

  • Steve Gomez says:

    The Table saw is the most dangerous tool in the shop. I would buy a saw stop in a heart beat if I could afford it. And as far as the Gov. mandate. How did the bank de regulation go? A mandate could save a lot of fingers. Kind of like the motorcycle helmit law.

  • Larry Wangerin says:

    A couple of thoughts – A light curtain is an established safety technology used with manufacturing machinery. The light curtain is placed so everything can be stopped in an emergency. The law should address specific dangers to assure their resolution. This creates opportunity for innovation beyond a single technology. About insurance companies – Liberty Mutual,for one, is involved with client safety and health issues in the work place. Safety is just good business. If a project came along to design a shop and buy the equipment, I would buy the current technology, Saw Stop.

  • Alan Blough says:

    It’s time that We the People snap a leash and dog chain back on the neck of the government dog.

    The reason we are required by law to buy auto insurance is supposedly to make sure that if there is an accident, those involved can pay for damages. Uninsured motorists cost those of us with insurance a lot of money if they hit us. The reason why health premiums are so high is because those of us who pay for our insurance are forced to pay high premiums to take up the slack for the uninsured and people like illegal aliens who flood the public health facilities. When I was single I paid for my own coverage. When I got sick which was rare, I paid out of pocket; never the less my premiums went up and up and up until I had to drop coverage. By that time I was working for an employer who had health coverage as a benefit.

    The main problem I have with Mr. Gass is that he is demanding that this be mandated for all NEW saws. Like a number of others have stated, there are a lot of old saws out there. I can’t afford to drop between $3500-$4000 for a new saw with this feature. Yes I have sustained injuries from a table saw and yes it cost Workerman’s Comp some money. The reason all these accidents happened was that I did something stupid right before the accident happened.

    It would have been interesting to see how this would have played out if Mr. Gass would have went to the saw companies, been turned down and then lauched Saw Stop as a retrofit kit for ALL saws. I would guess it could have been the next Biesemeyer-type product success. I would love to put a product like that on the two table saws I own. Market demand would be a much more powerful and accepted force than the government pit bull.

  • BillyJ says:

    I’m sure the government rulers believe they have our best interest in mind when formulating new regulations. However, I wonder whether they consider (or even care about) the unintended consequences of their actions.

    When it comes to public safety, issues such as mandatory seatbelts, child safety seats, helmets, or other such items can be debated ad nauseam. You do not have to drive a car to work; you can walk or take public transportation. If you do not want to wear a helmet on a motorcycle; don’t ride on one. And if you don’t want to spend the money on a table saw equipped with safety equipment designed to save your fingers – go to school and become a lawyer or a doctor.

    Regulations can drive businesses out of existence, or force them to move to countries where fewer regulations exist. As long as people have the freedom to move out of the country or change professions, there will always be a way to deal with regulations. Unfortunately David, Americans are predisposed to keeping their mouth shut and just going along with what they are told to do. I don’t see us changing any time soon.

  • Rob Bois says:

    I think the reason the flesh detecting technology mandate is so alarming is that the device represents such a significant premium relative to the overall product cost. Air bags add maybe 1% to the cost of a vehicle, while adding flesh detecting technology to a bench top saw could easily double the price (or more). This opens the door for a huge slippery slope. The government is essentially saying that once a safety technology for a tool exists, it MUST be implemented regardless of cost. So you can be sure someone is working on some ridiculous method for a similar technology for a circular saw that will easily cost 5x that of the tool itself. Where does does this cycle stop? If a technology exists to make something safer should it automatically be mandated for all products in that class regardless of cost? I certainly hope the answer is no, but our government has shown no indication it thinks otherwise. I don’t know about you, but I’m hoarding power tools!

  • Jerry Jaksha says:

    It is interesting to note that passing the flesh detecting technology mandate will eliminate new ideas for safe table saw use that are not “flesh detecting”.
    My table saw has a feeder/hold down so I don’t have to put my fingers within a foot of the blade. The feeder eliminates kickback and assures safe cuts, but the saw could not be sold in CA because it is not “flesh detecting”, only safe.

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