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Archive for May 18th, 2013

Is the power-tool industry too powerful to regulate?

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Industries hate regulation, though they love voluntary guidelines and standards (“voluntary” means that they can legitimately and legally be ignored), and they fight against regulation fiercely, usually on the basis that following a regulation may impact profits, and profits are the only goal. Myron Levin has an intriguing article at (“news of safety, health, and corporate conduct”):

They crowded in for the hot dog show.

An Oscar Meyer wiener, serving as proxy for a finger, was pushed into the spinning blade of a table saw. The demonstration, at the International Woodworkers Fair in Atlanta, mimicked the way gruesome table saw injuries often occur. But this saw was equipped with a safety device called SawStop that allowed the blade to distinguish between wood and flesh, and to stop fast enough to prevent serious harm. Sure enough, the blade came to a dead stop in about three one-thousandths of a second, leaving the dog with only a minor nick.

Table saw accidents are painful, life-changing and expensive. Each year, more than 67,000 U.S. workers and do-it-yourselfers suffer blade contact injuries, according to government estimates,including more than 33,000 injuries treated in emergency rooms and 4,000 amputations.

Gerald Wheeler had other numbers on his mind as he watched hot dog meet blade that day in August, 2002. As the operator of a wood shop in Hot Springs, Ark., Wheeler was all too aware of the unforgiving nature of table saws. Not long before, two of his employees had been maimed within a few weeks of each other. Wheeler felt awful about the injuries, the loss of two good workers, the $95,000 in medical bills, the doubling of his workers compensation rates.

Wheeler thought: If only this had come along sooner. He took out his Visa card to order two of the saws, but was told none were available. As the SawStop guys explained, they had been seeking licensing deals with the big power tool makers, but had found no takers.

Faced with the prospect of never getting the invention to market, the little company, also known as SawStop, eventually started making its own saws. Since the first went on sale in 2004, SawStop says it has recorded 2,000 “finger saves”—customer reports of  accidents likely to have caused disfiguring injuries with conventional saws, but that resulted in minor cuts or a few stitches at most (SawStop also acknowledges two reports of amputations.).

“Bravo!” a man named Frank Oslick emailed SawStop, explaining that he had lost two fingers and part of his thumb in a table saw accident when he was 14. “I have not lived a single day without regretting that accident,” he wrote. “If your device prevents even one person from going through what I have gone through it is a world class accomplishment.”

The hot dog demonstration

However, SawStop still makes the only saws with skin-sensing technology, and accounts for a tiny fraction of sales. Tens of thousands of fingers have been sliced off since the system was invented, but the rest of the industry, which is self-regulating, has been allowed to go on as before.

Over the years, top saw makers and thePower Tool Institute, their trade group, have defended the design of their saws and the decision to snub SawStop.

They’ve argued that injury numbers have been inflated and that the government’s estimate of $2.36 billion in annual costs to society from table saw accidents—including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering—is exaggerated. They say the market for popular, lightweight saws costing as little as $100 would be destroyed by the added expense of SawStop. They note that under some circumstances, SawStop can stop a blade without skin contact–such as when the blade touches conductive materials like metal or very wet wood. In such cases, the owner usually has to replace the blade and an electronic cartridge.

But as court records and testimony have shown, the companies rejected the safety advance for another reason, too: They worried that if a way to prevent severe injuries got traction in the market, they would face liability for accidents with conventional saws.

Even so, they have had to defend lawsuits. About 150 have been filed in recent years, focusing on the companies’ decision not to use available safety technology.

The industry is also trying to keep the Consumer Product Safety Commission from requiring injury reduction systems on all table saws—either SawStop or something similar. Indeed, another firm, Massachusetts-based Whirlwind Tool Co., says it has developed a “proximity detection” systems that will shut down a saw when a hand comes close to the blade.

But the industry may have little to fear from the commission. . .

Continue reading. It’s important to keep in mind that corporations routinely operate in bad faith.

Written by Leisureguy

18 May 2013 at 9:38 am

Sodial razor and a perfect shave

with 10 comments

SOTD 18 May 2013

A truly great shave: BBS throughout. It began with the Whipped Dog 24mm silvertip brush and Palermo shaving cream from I love the Palermo fragrance, and the lather is amazing: terrific lubricity, ample protection, and works like a charm. I’m going to be using more of their shaving cream in the future.

The Sodial razor is a $2.30 item (including shipping costs) on, and it is surprisingly good as a razor. I put the head on a Weber handle and truly this razor could work fine as one’s only razor. The blade is a Personna Lab Blue blade, a very nice blade for me.

Three passes with no problems, a certain amount of blade buffing at the end, and a good splash of Musgo Real’s excellent aftershave: I’m a happy (and very smooth-faced) guy.

Written by Leisureguy

18 May 2013 at 9:08 am

Posted in Shaving

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