By now everyone knows SawStop has evil lobbyists and lawyers trying to force their technology on us.
Like many people, I was really wrapped up in this lobbying issue. For those who aren’t familiar with the effort, SawStop was trying to push through a government regulation that would require an advanced safety system like SawStop’s brake (oh, how convenient—SawStop makes those!) to be included on all new table saws.
To-date such a feature has not been forced on anyone by the government lobbyists, but the riving knives you find on all modern table saws in the US are the result of other safety regulations that did become law. Despite the lack of a government-enforced regulation requiring a SawStop-like technology, the reality has hit some corporate-owned shops. For example, a major publishing corporation near my hometown replaced all their table saws with SawStop saws after someone had an accident and the corporation’s lawyers found out there was a product on the market that could help prevent or limit the severity of such accidents.
There are always two sides to the coin. SawStop’s recent legal suit against several manufacturers alleges that the industry giants colluded to block the technology from widespread adoption by agreeing not to license it. I also read something recently (maybe in one of the same articles) that a joint industry venture actually did produce an alternative safety system, but that system was never brought to market. Either it wasn’t cost-effective or it just didn’t work…or everyone but SawStop just wants to chop off your fingers. Ironically, if SawStop’s lobbying had been successful, their technology would have some competition, and saws without compliant safety systems would fly off the shelves for months or years until the compliance deadline went into effect, and would continue to sell on eBay long afterward.
I think it’s fair to say that Steven Gass didn’t invent his blade brake with purely altruistic intentions. From an ideological perspective, I personally think if Gass (or at least the SawStop legal counsel) wants to preach about how SawStop only wants to prevent injuries and that the rest of the industry is self-serving and evil, he should give away the technology, as Volvo did with the seatbelt—or make it really cheap. Otherwise he seems disingenuous, at best. But that’s just my opinion. If you check out the SawStop wikipedia page, the Power Tool Institute and its members do seem to have some valid objections to the technology, including some questions about liability, should the braking system fail.
Ultimately we have to make our own decisions for our own reasons, but if I found out tomorrow that Volvo tested their original seatbelt designs by crashing cars filled with baby seals, and that they accepted secret kickbacks from the Swedish Mafia for “giving away” their invention, I would be furious! However, I wouldn’t compromise my own safety on ideological grounds and make a point to buy my next car without seatbelts.
Ok, I’m done for now. Feel free to post additional comments. Or if you’re feeling really constructive, include links to news stories and other SawStop debates on this website and others.