How Much Would You Pay to Make Sure You Never Sawed Off a Finger?

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What’s it worth to you to minimize the risk of cutting off a finger?

$300? $600? $1,200? Or perhaps it’s worth nothing, if you think you’re already careful enough?

If you’re a woodworker willing to spend enough money, you can buy a table saw that detects fingers and stops the blade like this:

Jonathan Katz-Moses

(The hot dog is your finger.)

So, would you pay extra for this feature? What if the government said you had no choice but to pay up? And what if only one company held the patents for the safety mechanism?

Government mandates of new safety technology are classic trade-offs, whether the product is a power tool or a car or a pill. In this case, regulations requiring that table saws be sold with this safety device might mean a few thousand fingers saved per year. But they might also lead to higher costs for consumers.

When the technologies are patented, the trade-offs can become even more clear, like the high prices (and high profits) of drug companies in exchange for the innovation of new drugs. With table saws, it might similarly lead to a period of less competition and more profit for the company that developed the safety mechanism.

Among tools likely to be found in someone’s garage, table saws are the biggest driver of serious woodworking-related injuries: Each year they are responsible for about 30,000 injuries that require emergency department treatment — and nearly 4,300 amputations.

Amputations from consumer products

CONSUMER PRODUCT EST. AMPUTATIONS PER YEAR
Bench or table saws 4,260
All other power saws 2,740
Power jointers 120
Awls, chisels and planes 110
Power routers 110
Knives 90
Hand saws 90
Hammers 60
Power sanders 40
Portable power drills 30
All other products 190
Based on National Electronic Injury Surveillance System data from 2014 to 2023. Some categories combined for clarity. N.E.I.S.S. tracks thousands of consumer products that are not covered by other agencies (such as guns, drugs
and automobiles).

Bench or compact table saws

Budget saws for basic use

PRICE AVAILABLE AFTER RULE CHANGE?
Compact SawStop 10 in. $899 Yes
Milwaukee M18 8.25 in. $599 No
Rigid 10 in. $299 No
Craftsman 8.25 in. $129 No

Jobsite table saws

Mobile saws with wheels

PRICE AVAILABLE AFTER RULE CHANGE?
SawStop Jobsite Saw Pro $1,599 Yes
Bosch Reaxx (Last sold 2017) $1,500 Maybe
Grizzly G0870 $676 No
Dewalt DWE7491RS $549 No

Cabinet or professional table saws

Powerful saws with precision alignment fence

PRICE AVAILABLE AFTER RULE CHANGE?
Felder K945S $25,000 Yes
JET Deluxe 10 in. 3HP $3,399 No
SawStop 3HP $2,849 Yes
Grizzly G1023RL 3HP $2,350 No
Prices taken from company websites, excluding shipping. Products represent an assortment of popular comparable table saws. The Bosch Reaxx table saw would be permitted to be sold after the potential C.P.S.C. rule, although the company has stated it will take three years past a rule enactment to return the product to market.

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