Free Shipping on orders over US$39.99 How to make these links

PTI’s Fight Against Table Saw Regulations

If you buy something through our links, ToolGuyd might earn an affiliate commission.

As you might have seen from some of our recent articles, I have been thoroughly analyzing recent activity and updates on proposed rulemaking that could mandate flesh detection and active injury mitigation technology on every table saw.

My goal has been to explore recent news and information from every angle.

PTI, the Power Tool Institute, is an industry group whose members include jobsite table saw makers, such as Bosch, Dewalt, Festool, Milwaukee, Ryobi, Skilsaw, and the company behind Ridgid power tools.

Aside from some of its individual member brands and two other companies (Harbor Freight and Grizzly), the PTI looks to be the only major organization in opposition to US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) proposed rulemaking that would require SawStop-like active injury mitigation (AIM) tech be implemented in all table saws.

In my opinion, the PTI is losing.

Fact-Checking PTI Claims

When the CPSC started showing fresh momentum on table saw safety rulemaking, the PTI released an updated lengthy document of “table saw facts.”

Following are the PTI’s main arguments. This has been edited from all-caps and color-stylized text for greater readability.

On November 1, 2023, CPSC published a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking on table saws. The proposed rule requiring active injury mitigation on all table saws acknowledges:

  • Costs of table saws would more than double,
  • Manufacturers may exit the table saw market,
  • Small manufacturers may go out of business,
  • Sales of table saws will decrease, resulting in unemployment, and,

Additionally, the government could be creating a monopoly for one company (which originally petitioned the CPSC for this mandatory standard), that can either charge unreasonable licensing fees or refuse to license. All of this when voluntary standards are working.

I asked the PTI’s communications rep if they could provide examples of small manufacturers that may go out of business.

They would not, citing “strict anti-trust guidelines.”

I asked if the PTI could at least define what they mean by the term “small manufacturer.” I never heard back.

Which table saw brands – PTI member or not – are at risk of going out of business should the CPSC finalize their rulemaking, requiring table saws to have AIM tech?

SawStop is the ONLY brand I can think of whose entire business is centered around table saws, and they’ve implemented AIM tech at the core of their business.

The PTI repeats the same claim several times in their 180-page comment to the CPSC (PDF) earlier this year. They say:

The NPR acknowledges that a mandatory standard will likely cause prices of benchtop table saws to more than double, and will cause small manufacturers go out of business while larger manufacturers may exit the table saw market, negatively impacting consumer choice and causing job losses throughout the country.

According to the PTI, an AIM table saw safety regulation could lead to “job losses throughout the country.”

It’s likely that table saw prices would increase, and maybe some manufacturers might exit the market. But which “small manufacturers” are going out of business?

Which jobs are at risk?

This is just one claim the PTI makes that doesn’t seem to hold up to scrutiny. It comes across to me as an unsubstantiated hypothetical to the point of fearmongering.

There are other claims I wish to seek clarity on, but the PTI seems unwilling to aid in this.

Risk vs Injury Claims

PTI Comparison Chart of Hazard Exposure by Table Saw Type in 2024 Report

The PTI oppositional document includes a 2007-2008 breakdown of annual sales estimates:

  • Benchtop saws: 875,000 units/year
  • Contractor saws: 85,000 units/year
  • Cabinet and industrial saws: 60,000 units/year

Their risk assessment, based on the “on” time in hours, estimated a ~66% risk exposure for cabinet saws, ~12% risk exposure for benchtop saws, and ~22% risk exposure for contractor saws.

PTI Comparison Chart of Hazard Exposure by Table Saw Type in 2017

In PTI’s most recent comments, they included a chart with a 2017 estimate of saws in use, showing an even greater imbalance with respect to “share of injury risk.” I haven’t seen an updated chart yet.

They argued that the “CPSC’s risk assessment does not take into account significant differences in hazard exposure across saw types.”

It seems that the PTI is saying that a fewer number of cabinet saws are used far more than benchtop saws, leading to a higher “share of injury risk.”

However, they acknowledge a CPSC figure that reports a majority of injuries (60.9%) involve benchtop saws.

The PTI says:

Overall, the risk of blade contact injury must be based on the table saw type, as well as the frequency and duration of use. While PTI submitted very detailed table saw hazard exposure analysis in its previous comments, the CPSC wrongly assumes that the risk of injury is equal for all table saw type categories.

Shouldn’t risk assessment follow actual injury data, rather than hours of “on” time and table saw use?

Even if the CPSC “wrongly assumes that the risk of injury is equal for all table saw categories,” is it fair to estimate risk in terms of hours of use per product type?

PTI Table Saw Injuries by Tool Type in 2017

In 2017, the PTI put together this chart showing the injuries reported to them from 2007 thru 2015 according to saw type. According to the chart, consumer and professional benchtop saws were responsible for 82% of table saw injuries reported to PTI members in this time.

PTI member brands mainly offer benchtop saws, and some offer contractor saws. PTI’s data, as we’ll get to in a moment, show that a fewer number of contractor saws are used more, resulting in greater risk exposure.

The information depicted here suggests that risk exposure does not directly correlate to injury proportions.

What does “on” time matter if benchtop saws were responsible for 82% of table saw injuries reported to PTI member brands, and contractor saws 18%?

According to the PTI’s 2017 risk assessment, contractor saws (19%) were assigned more than double the injury risk compared to benchtop saws (8.8%).

The PTI is estimating double the injury risk hazard for contractor saws, but their injury data shows that 4.56X the number of injuries were reported to their member brands for benchtop saws than for contractor saws.

This suggests that there’s more than 2X the “hazard exposure” for contractor-type saws, but less than 1/4X the number of injuries.

The PTI’s analyses suggest that there’s lower risk exposure, on average, for benchtop saws, but their limited injury data suggests otherwise.

I don’t see much weight in PTI injury figures or estimates. According to their recent report, just 93 benchtop table saw injuries were reported to them for the period of 2016 thru 2021. That’s 93 benchtop table saw injuries in 6 years.

They say that “1 in every 155,143 benchtop table saws was involved in a reported accident.” That sounds like there aren’t very many benchtop table saw injuries, until you realize it strictly references reported accidents to PTI member brands. The CPSC estimates shown an average of roughly 30,000 injuries a year.

This would suggest 93 benchtop table saws were reported to PTI member brands out of up to roughly 180,000 blade-contact injuries, which is not a valid conclusion to make.

The PTI’s report is full of data, but not all of it is meaningful.

They’re unwilling or incapable of answering press/media questions, and so fact-checking is impossible.

In a recent letter to the CPSC, PTI expressed it would helpful to see:

Updated accident data broken down by product category – consumer benchtop, professional cabinet, and professional contractor saws, and any or all studies or analysis of accident rates among these table saw categories.

I think this is going to be key information, especially given that PTI rightfully describes the most recent CPSC data as being a “complete reversal” of earlier figures.

They put considerable effort towards pointing at SawStop as a major obstacle towards benchtop table saws with AIM tech, but I couldn’t find any discussion about how or why such tools can’t be fit with AIM tech.

There’s a lot of philosophizing, but not much in the form of engineering analysis.

Moreso, some of the data seems inappropriate. PTI reports a higher frequency of benchtop saw blade-contact injuries, and it contradicts their “on” time hazard estimate figure.

This makes such hazard and table saw category risk estimates seem convenient for persuasive purposes, but impractical and potentially misleading.

What’s Their Plan?

PTI spends a lot of time talking about the risk of a SawStop monopoly, the inaccessibility of patented tech, and other such obstacles towards developing competing flesh detection and AIM technologies.

They reference Steve Gass at least 38 different times in their recent oppositional document, and SawStop a whopping 203 times.

Where do they propose how to to make table saws safer to use without AIM technologies being mandated?

In their recent comments, the PTI says:

There are additional unintended consequences associated with implementation of the AIM technology, such as: forgoing the use of the guarding system, resulting in increased frequency of eye and other facial injuries and body puncture injuries due to kickback

As I understand it, users forgoing guards is part of the problem, as this is responsible for at least some of the deep laceration and amputation-type injuries suffered and reported every year.

Many users are already forgoing blade guards, and this leads to blade-contact injuries. But the PTI said mandated AIM tech might lead users to users forgoing blade guards and suffer eye, face, and impact injuries due to kickback.

Do SawStop users report an increase frequency of kickback injuries?

Is PTI’s claim supported by injury data, or is it fearmongering?

What’s the takeaway here, that being able to remove table saw guarding could be a source of injuries? Such actions already contribute towards grievous injuries.

The PTI adds:

Given the complexities of these issues, the NPR is lacking in analysis of alternative measures other than AIM, such as permanent guard or indicator of guard status (guard detection)

In their statements, the PTI argues that modern voluntary standards work. But here, they’re referring to permanent guarding or guard status detection as a potential alternative to AIM tech.

The way things are going, we’re lucky if table saws aren’t completely banned.

Organizations in support of the CPSC mandating AIM tech on table saws have argued that modern modular guarding has not measurably prevented injuries.

US CPSC Table Saw Injury Statistics thru 2021

The CPSC’s data shows that there are still tens of thousands of table saw blade-contact injuries every year.

In ALL of PTI’s opposition to the CPSC rulemaking that I’ve done so far, they don’t thoroughly discuss potential alternatives.

PTI says current voluntary guarding standards are working. Consumer advocates and safety groups say they’re not, and such groups have expressed support for the proposed rulemaking.

What is PTI doing to reduce the number of table saw injuries?

This, I think, is what it comes down to. Are tool brands – PTI members or otherwise – doing enough to sufficiently reduce the number of blade-contact injuries?

What is their plan? Is there a plan?

That’s where the PTI opposition falls apart and weakens.

If the CPSC asks the PTI how they plan to better protect consumers from blade-contact injuries, what’s their answer?

“Things are fine” is not a good answer, because injury statistics clearly show otherwise.

Some readers will say it’s the tool users’ fault for increasing their own risk, such as removing the blade guard. But can anything – other than implementing AIM tech – be done by PTI member tool brands or other bodies to decrease the severity of the consequences of accidental blade contact?

What Happened at the Recent Hearing

US CPSC Commissioner Trumka, who is enthusiastically in support of the rulemaking being finalized and expedited, asked tough questions of the PTI at a recent hearing.

From what I watched in a recording of the most recent hearing, PTI’s Executive Manager dodged all of Commissioner Trumka’s major questions.

The PTI makes some cogent arguments on paper, but there’s also some fearmongering, an insistence that current safety accessories are sufficient, and a focus on SawStop litigation being a major obstacle.

Regarding PTI’s joint venture-developed AIM tech, for which specifics have not been made public or available to the CPSC, Commissioner Trumka asked for PTI members to be released from their own confidentiality agreements

The PTI replied:

“We have licensing agreements for anyone who would like to license our patents, so I think if there is a manufacturer that is interested in licensing the patents, they are free to contact us, and we can provide them with that licensing agreement.”

PTI’s executive manager is co-CEO of a trade association management company.

The Commissioner doesn’t seem to trust their agenda, saying:

… so the playbook is well-worn, you’re hired to do a job, part of that job is to oppose safety rules. Why should we trust you?

Trumka seems to have a very clear opinion, with the following caption attached to a video clip of the hearing he posted to social media:

Companies that don’t protect their consumers when they can should hear from their victims. After all, they’re the ones that pay the consequences of corporate selfishness.

The PTI’s Executive Manager, in their separate role as Executive Director of the Portable Generator Manufacturer’s Association, recently opposed the CPSC’s proposed rulemaking on portable generators.

That CPSC rulemaking, if finalized, would require portable generators to adhere to a carbon monoxide emissions requirement, and feature CO detection and an automatically shut off.

At the recent hearing, Commissioner Trumka said this about the trade association management company, which the PTI Executive Manager is part owner of:

it has a business model that I think virtually no one’s ever heard of, that I find kind of interesting. It’s a for-profit firm that gets hired by nonprofit shell trade associations to run them, and I say shell trade associations because they have no employees. Their work is carried out by [the trade management company]. And your clients are 23 different trade associations.

So it’s not surprising when we see you use the same playbook for multiple clients when you come here [to present at hearings in opposition of safety rulemaking proposals].

If I didn’t hold my own opinions on the topic, I might be inclined to agree that the PTI lobbying does seem to be motivated by “corporate selfishness.” Maybe that is what’s fueling their opposition to the proposed rulemaking, but at least some of the PTI’s arguments are aligned with consumer’s interests.

PTI’s Latest Statement

In a recent communication to the CPSC chairman (PDF), PTI’s manager complains about Commissioner Trumka’s conduct at the hearing, specifically pointing out the Commissioner’s “continued interruptions and grandstanding.”

There are stern statements in the PTI letter, such as:

The hearing included several troubling suggestions unbecoming of the Commission and counterproductive to the rulemaking process.

The PTI manager objected that their organization was described as a “shell company,” and that reference of their testimony in opposition to other safety standard matters was brought up.

These seem like deliberate, mischaracterizations designed to unfairly undermine the PTI’s credibility rather than focusing on the facts to inform the Commission’s unbiased decision making.

If the PTI is a trade group with no employees other than a 3rd party management company that manages many other industry groups, is it really a mischaracterization?

In the past 15-1/2 years, I have only ever heard from the PTI when the CPSC rulemaking on table saw AIM technology shows signs of forward momentum. It has been 3 times now – in 2011, 2017, and again recently.

In my experience working with and reporting on the tool industry, the PTI only pops up to oppose the CPSC’s proposed rulemaking on table saws.

Was Trumka grandstanding? In my opinion, definitely. But is he wrong? I found his characterizations of the PTI and its management to seem accurate.

Trumka vs PTI Social Media Post

This image includes two frames from one of Trumka’s recent social media posts.

From Commissioner Trumka’s public posting, it seems that he sees industry and corporations as obstacles pushing back against measures that would improve consumer safety and protections.

The PTI also mentions being surprised about SawStop’s announcement. SawStop recently announced that they would dedicate one of their key patents to the public should the CPSC rulemaking go into effect, eliminating at least one obstacle in the way of competitor AIM table saw development.

The PTI describes SawStop’s announcement as “an inappropriate PR stunt.” Thoughts and judgement aside, was it really a surprise?

In their November 2023 letter in response to Commissioner Trumka (PDF), SawStop’s CEO said:

SawStop Holding LLC is evaluating whether to commit either to making that [‘840] patent freely available to competitors for use in the United States or to licensing that patent on FRAND terms if the Commission enacts as a rule the safety standard presented in the current SNPR.

PTI and its member tool brands have enough lawyers, counsel, and experts that someone should have been keeping an eye on all public documents associated with the CPSC rulemaking.

They could – and should – have considered this to be a possibility, and prepared an appropriate response.

It seems that PTI is still pointing at SawStop as blocking competitive AIM tech development, only with a slightly different argument.

If a table saw manufacturer undertook the development process necessary to develop and commercialize AIM-enabled table saws prior to the rule’s effective date, so that as of the effective date the table saw manufacturer could offer the table saws to the public in furtherance of the Commission’s goals, SawStop could still sue the table saw manufacturer for its activities prior to the effective date, such as the development and testing of prototypes and pre-commercialization products.

The PTI seems to be trying to say that its member tool brands cannot develop table saws with AIM tech because of the still-present risk of litigation.

I don’t understand why this means PTI brands couldn’t develop competitive AIM tech. Haven’t they already been developing tech under the joint venture? Isn’t that what they said they’re willing to license to non-member table saw brands?

Doesn’t SawStop’s announcement simply mean that PTI tool brands couldn’t sell such table saws until CPSC rulemaking goes into effect and the key SawStop ‘840 patent is dedicated to the public?

It recently came to light that Bosch, a PTI member brand, is NOT currently under threat of litigation. Bosch has a licensing agreement with SawStop, but they do not seem to be actively developing a successor to the original Reaxx.

To me, some of PTI’s arguments are coming across as excuses, rather than reasons. If the CPSC Commissioners see the same, I think they are unlikely to be moved by the PTI’s arguments and opposition to the proposed table saw rulemaking.

What Happens Now?

In their comments to the CPSC (PDF), UL Solutions wrote:

We strongly support this proposal and believe that the use of active injury mitigation (AIM) technology will significantly reduce the incidents of devastating and life-long injuries caused by table saws.

I have not seen the PTI suggest any alternative that would “significantly reduce the incidents of devastating and life-long injuries caused by table saws.”

In their statements, the PTI urges that, instead of finalizing the rulemaking regarding table saw AIM tech, the CPSC should instead “rely upon the voluntary standard UL62841-3-1.”

Does this have any weight if the UL itself “strongly supports” the rulemaking?

The National Consumers League commented (with paragraph breaks added for easier readability):

Since the introduction of AIM technology into the US market in 2004, and now two decades later, PTI and its member companies have consistently argued against a mandatory safety standard for table saws without a defensible rationale.

Instead of devoting its considerable resources to adopting and incorporating a proven safety technology that will all but do away with table saw injuries, PTI has instead spent the better part of nearly 20 years fighting CPSC’s and consumer advocates’ efforts to enact a safety standard for table saws that has been proven to be feasible and effective.

This includes going to Congressional appropriators and asking them to bar the CPSC, one of our critical federal product safety agencies, from working on table saw safety.

The fight isn’t over, but it seems that the PTI, their member brands, and other major companies in opposition to the rulemaking are losing. At least, things don’t seem to be going well for them.