20 May, 13 | by Bridie Scott-Parker
I have taken Barry’s advice and become a regular reader of Fair Warning. I read a post yesterday titled “After more than a decade and thousands of disfiguring injuries, power tool industry still resisting safety fix” by Myron Levin, with contributions by Lilly Fowler (read the article here: http://www.fairwarning.org/2013/05/after-more-than-a-decade-and-thousands-disfiguring-injuries-power-tool-industry-resisting-safety-solution/). As the daughter of a builder, I am familiar with the extensive variety of injuries that can potentially arise from power tools. I was shocked to learn, however, the enormous number of injuries – many of which are permanent and irreparable – which are caused by table saw blades alone.
Mr Levin refers to a Consumer Product Safety Commission Report which considers the need for a new table saw performance safety standard. It is estimated that over 36,000 table saw injuries each year from 2001 to 2008 required emergency department treatment (which of course excludes those who sought care from primary physicians, or treated their own relatively minor injuries, a common behaviour in rural areas in Australia). Follow-up interviews of 66,900 blade-related injuries sustained by table saw operators which were treated in emergency departments during 2007 and 2008 revealed the following:
* 31% were aged over 64 years;
* 65.9% resulted in laceration, 12.4% resulted in fractures, 12.0% resulted in amputation, and 8.5% resulted in avulsion (which I learned today is a nice way of saying that a piece of body was ripped off);
* a blade guard was in use in 30.9% of injuries, with consumers removing the guard post-purchase in 75.0% of cases where the guard was absent;
* 7.1% of injured persons were hospitalised (almost double the average 4% hospitalisation rate for all consumer products);
* the annual total bill for treated blade saw contact injuries was estimated as $2.36 billion (excluding the cost of deaths which were found to occur secondary to the injury).
The existing table saw safety standards were reviewed, with the costs associated with increasing safety were likely to increase the overall purchase price of the table saws. After reading Mr Levin’s article, however, and hearing the harrowing stories of young men who suddenly were looking at their fingers lying on the ground and who had undergone numerous surgeries with further surgery expected to still result in permanent deficits, how can too high a price be put on injury prevention efforts? The injury prevention technology is there.