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Back in 2010, a Massachusetts jury awarded a woodworker $1.5 million for injuries he suffered while working on a Ryobi table saw. The verdict held that Ryobi Technologies and parent company One World Technologies were liable because they failed to provide advanced safety technology on their saws, which would have prevented the man’s injuries.

Table Saw Settlement

Stephen Gass created “SawStop” back at the turn of the century, a “flesh-sensing” technology that stops the blade from rotating the instant it senses the presence of human skin. He presented the technology to the major saw manufacturers, including Ryobi, but they did not implement it.

That decision may come back to bite them, as yet another injured man was awarded compensation because of a lack of safety technology on the Ryobi saw. He had filed a lawsuit against the manufacturers back in 2014, and his lawyers just reached a settlement agreement with the defendants for $2 million.

Man Loses Finger to Kickback Accident

According to the Daily Hornet, the man was installing hardwood floors in a woman’s home in South Philadelphia in March 2012. He was 19 years old and was cutting a length of flooring when he suffered from a kickback accident. His right middle finger was amputated at the knuckle, and he also suffered from nerve damage to his right index finger.

Risks for kickback injuries are higher when the operator is not using a riving knife or blade guard, and when he is cutting smaller pieces of wood. The piece of wood may rotate inward as the blade goes through it, allowing the blade to actually pick it up in its teeth and fling it back toward the operator. Kickbacks can also occur when the operator is crosscutting a piece of wood, “ripping it” (cutting it lengthwise), or when working on poor quality wood.

The quick movement of the wood in a kickback incident often pulls the operator’s hand into the blade, causing serious injuries. The wood can also fly off and hit the operator or others nearby, potentially causing impact injuries and even vision loss.

Manufacturers Resistant to Implement Flesh-Sensing Technology

The plaintiff filed his case in May 2014 in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, claiming that Ryobi was liable for damages because of defective design—namely, ineffective guard design and a lack of flesh-sensing technology.

According to the Philly Voice, Ryobi had actually agreed back in 2002 to implement SawStop technology on its saws, but then they never did. Other manufacturers have been resistant, as well, stating the technology would increase the cost of their products, and that they’d have to pass those costs on to consumers.

Meanwhile, table saws continue to cause thousands of injuries every year. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) conducted a survey in 2007-2008, and estimated the woodworking tool caused 79,500 hospital emergency room visits during that time. A later 2010 study noted that kickback was the most common cause of table saw injuries, contributing to 72 percent of them.

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