NCL Fact Sheet on Saw Safety – National Consumers League

Table saws cause tens of thousands of serious injuries every year, costing billions of dollars.

Approximately 40,000 Americans go to hospital emergency rooms every year with injuries sustained while operating table saws.  About 4,000 of those injuries – or more than 10 every day – are amputations.

Table saw injuries cost the United States approximately $2 billion every year. 

Current table saw safety standards have proven ineffective in protecting consumers.

The primary technology used by the majority of table saw manufacturers to prevent table saw injuries is a plastic blade guard.  This technology has remained essentially the same for over 50 years.  Yet, blade guards have proved to be ineffective in reducing the 40,000 serious table saw injuries that occur every year.

Guards must be removed in order to perform many tasks on a table saw, such as cutting a notch in a board.  Users find them cumbersome and many simply remove the guards from their saws.  According to the most recent CPSC injury report, in approximately two-thirds of table saw injuries, the guard had been removed. And even when guards are in place, blade contact injuries can occur.  The CPSC report found that almost one-third of table saw injuries occur with the blade guard in place.

Technologies exist that prevent serious injuries if a person comes in contact with the blade.

One of these technologies, called SawStop, stops the blade within milliseconds of contact to minimize injury.  It is on the market already and has demonstrated its effectiveness with over 1000 finger saves.  Another technology was developed by a consortium of table saw manufacturers.  It retracts the blade within milliseconds of contact to minimize injury.  It has not yet been brought to market.

The benefits of improving table saw safety clearly outweigh the costs. 

It would cost approximately $100 per saw to put automatic safety technology on every table saw sold in the United States. According to Dr. John D. Graham, head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for President George W. Bush, an average table saw equipped with an automatic safety system will deliver $753 in benefits due to reduced injuries. The $753 benefit per table saw is many times greater than the $100 cost per saw to equip table saws with automatic safety technology, which means this safety requirement would be very cost-effective.  And those monetary benefits don’t even take into account the benefits of eliminating pain, suffering and emotional trauma that serious injuries impose on victims and their families.

The table saw industry is using many of the same arguments that auto manufacturers used to delay airbag requirements for 20 years.  In that time, an estimated 162,000 people died unnecessarily.

In the eight years that the Power Tool Industry (PTI) has been opposing automatic safety technology for table saws, an estimated 320,000 serious table saw injuries have occurred, including 32,000 amputations.

The PTI argues:

  • The requirement would be too costly.

But statistics show that it is cost-beneficial to prevent 40,000 serious injuries every year with this proven technology.  Auto manufacturers also argued that airbags would be too expensive for many cars and that consumers would not want to spend more money for the additional safety.

  • Blade guards work if people will use them.

Blade guards must be removed for many kinds of cuts made on a table saw, so they cannot be used all the time.  Automatic safety devices on table saws, in contrast, can be used for virtually every cut of wood and other non-conductive material. Also, people don’t use blade guards because they are cumbersome and often interfere with the work. Automatic safety devices, in contrast, are invisible to the user and they don’t interfere with the work.

Automobile manufacturers argued that seat belts were sufficient to protect drivers and passengers. Airbags and seat belts are similar to automatic safety devices and blade guards.  Many people don’t use seat belts.  And unlike seat belts, airbags are automatic devices that are invisible to the user and they don’t interfere with the operation of the car.

And just like airbags and seat belts, the safest way to operate a table saw is to have both an automatic safety device AND a blade guard.

  • If consumers want to pay extra for safety, they can buy the safe table saw that is now on the market.

It is wrong to say that consumers will pay more if safer saws are required because society is already paying $2 billion per year due to preventable table saw injuries.  Society will save money if safer saws are required.  In addition, safety should not be available to only those who can afford it.  What if we sold cars with seat belts and airbags only to those who could afford them?  Or only made safe food and water available for those who could pay for it?  Safety shouldn’t only be for the affluent.  All members of society have a right to expect that the products they use will be safe.

It is time for the Consumer Product Safety Commission to act quickly to enact a performance standard that would require table saws to mitigate injuries when blade contact occurs or is about to occur.   Table saws that would meet such a performance standard are already operating successfully in the marketplace; the benefits far outweigh the costs; and injuries have not been reduced under the current voluntary safety standard.   Every day of delay means another 100 serious injuries – that is too high a price to pay.

Table saw accidents preventable with technology improvements – National Consumers League

Did you know that each year, tens of thousands of people are brutally injured by table saws – including 4,000 amputations – at a cost of more than $2 billion a year to treat victims? This just in: CPSC, in a unanimous 5-0 vote on October 5, 2011, decided to move forward with an ANPR regarding a national table saw safety standard. Click here to view NCL’s press release hailing the decision.

The National Consumers League has been calling on the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to implement safety changes that would help keep this major public health threat at bay since November of last year. Recently, NCL brought table saw victims from across the country (whose stories are available below) to CPSC headquarters to share their debilitating injuries with CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum.

With NCL’s strong support, CPSC has voted unanimously (5-0) in favor of moving forward with an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding establishing a national table saw safety standard—a giant step forward in curbing the unnecessary loss of life and limb.

Click here for an NCL fact sheet on saw safety

Victims’ stories of table saw injuries are grisly. Meet Adam, a husband and father of two sons, who is sharing his experience this spring with policymakers in hopes that table saws will be made safer for others:

Adam

Adam, a very experienced woodworker who owns a woodworking business, was cutting panels on a contractor saw on May 12, 2010 and as the material started to fall off the backside of the saw, he instinctively went to grab the panel. As he was pulling the panel back, his elbow caught the top of the blade and the blade then pulled his elbow further into the blade, up to the center portion of his forearm.

The blade cut completely through the ulna bone and ulnar nerve in his right forearm, and also caused extensive damage to muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Since the accident, Adam has been going through extensive medical treatment and therapy. He has an upcoming visit to the Mayo Clinic to review the possibility of harvesting nerves from his ankles and feet and transplanting them to his forearm and hand. Doctors estimate it will take 3-5 years for him to recover.

Adam had recently started a woodworking business and was self-employed at the time of the accident, so this has been very tough financially on his young family. Though he is still able to do woodworking, he cannot continue his business because doing the work is too painful and slow to be able to turn a profit on what he builds. He is now in the process of applying for Social Security. He has had medical assistance step in to help with the medical bills, so the out-of-pocket cost of the injury to him and his family is not yet fully known. His wife now works as a part-time nurse to cover living expenses while Adam recovers. Adam has been interviewing for jobs but has not been able to get one because in every interview he has been asked what he can commit to do physically and he cannot yet answer that question. Every day is different in regards to the level of pain he feels in his hand and the degree he can move his fingers.

Read more stories like Adam’s (warning: PDFs contain graphic injury images)Chris | Curtis | Gerald | Adam’s full story

Consumer product safety advocates find stories like Adam’s especially heartbreaking because they are preventable. Eight years ago a company called SawStop, which has developed safety technology to stop the saw blade when it detects electrical impulses given off by a finger or other body part, filed a petition with the Commission asking that the Commission adopt safety technology throughout the industry. The CPSC has yet to act on that petition or set a safety standard for table saws.

A 2006 CPSC staff report to the Commission in response to the petition shows a positive cost-benefit analysis to setting a national performance standard for table saws, and recommends granting the petition and proceeding with a rulemaking process that could result in a mandatory safety standard for table saws to reduce the risk of blade contact injury . CPSC voted in 2006 to start the regulatory process, but no action was ever taken. In early 2011, manufacturers of safer saw technologies were invited to present their positions at a CPSC public meeting, but no additional action has been taken.

“Each day we wait for CPSC to act, 10 new amputations occur,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director, who has been calling on the CPSC to act on table saw safety issues. “We’re throwing away 4,000 fingers each year when safer-saw technology exists. The time for action is now.”

Get off to a healthy start this school year – National Consumers League

It’s back to school season for much of America. There are many ways – for the health and well-being of the entire family – that parents and their families can start the year off right.

Check-ups, screenings, and immunizations

It’s important that your child have routine exams and screenings to help track their development and identify (and treat) any potential problems. Make sure vision and hearing are among the routine screenings your child receives.

In addition to the routine trip to the primary care office, it is important that your child visit the dentist every six months. Mouth troubles and dental-related conditions account for the #1 reason kids miss school.

Check with your local school and your health care practitioner about vaccine requirements and recommendations, and what is best for your child. If possible, take advantage of being in the doctor’s office and schedule your child’s flu vaccine for October or November.

In order to avoid trips to the doctor throughout the school year, remind your kids to wash their hands. Send them with a bottle of hand sanitizer for those times they can’t suds up in a sink.

Sleep

It is important for children to get several hours of quality sleep. They need the z’s in order to have energy, enthusiasm, and the capacity to learn.

Children ages 6-9 should aim for roughly 10 hours of sleep a night. Their older counterparts, the pre-teens, should get just over 9. All kids are different, however, and you should adjust their sleep schedule to suit them.

Backpacks

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that kids not carry more than 10-20 percent of their body weight in a backpack. You should also double check that the weight in their bags are distributed evenly, and remind them to carry the backpack with both (ideally padded) straps.

Your child’s mental health: stress and anxiety

Anxiety and stress are normal feelings at the start of the school year – for both kid and parent. Remember that it should pass within the first few weeks of school. If children remain anxious, you should talk with your health care practitioner.

Stomp out stress and anxiety by showing enthusiasm for the start of school. Talk with your kids about what happened each day, and get involved in with school activities. In addition to watching your child’s physical development, you should also keep tabs on their social and emotional changes.

More safety tips

Double check with your child’s school to ensure that the emergency contact information, as well as information about medications your child may take (at home or at school), known allergies, and physical limitations are current.

Depending upon how your child will get to school, remind them of safety tips. If they ride the bus, for example, they should know to keep out of the street and to keep a safe distance from the bus at all times; they should also know to wait for the bus driver to signal before crossing the street. If walking or bike riding, they should use a buddy system, wear reflective gear, obey traffic lights and street signs, and always wear a helmet. For those traveling by car, remind children to stay in their safety seats or seat belted at all times.

Encourage your kids to get active after school. Ideally, children and teenagers should get 60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.

Remind kids to practice good hygiene. In addition to washing their hands, remind them not to share combs/brushes or beverages.

Don’t waste your money-or your health-on counterfeit drugs – National Consumers League

When shopping around for prescription medications, watch out for fakes! You could throw your money away on drugs that don’t work, or — even worse — get sick by taking counterfeits that aren’t what they pretend to be.

  • Counterfeit drugs may not have the same active ingredients as the real thing. They may also be produced in unsanitary conditions. Counterfeits could actually make you MORE ill.
  • Only buy prescription drugs from safe, reputable sources. Check unfamiliar sellers with your state board of pharmacy or the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP). Go to www.nabp.net, click on “Who We Are,” then “Boards of Pharmacy” for a list, or call 847- 391-4406. When buying online, look for Web sites displaying the NABP’s VIPPS seal, indicating that the pharmacy meets state and federal requirements.
  • Don’t be fooled by the packaging. Know the size, shape, color, taste, and side effects of the drugs you take, and examine new packages to make sure everything is right. If you notice anything different about the packaging or the actual medicine, alert the pharmacist and your doctor immediately.
  • Also report your suspicions to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If you bought the drug by mail, telephone, or in person, contact the FDA Medwatch program, 800-332-1088. To report counterfeit drugs purchased on the Internet, use the form at www.fda.gov/oc/buyonline/buyonlineform.htm or call the Medwatch number.
  • For more information from the National Consumers League about counterfeit drugs, visit fraud.org.

Door-to-door sales: Questions for consumers – National Consumers League

When a young salesperson comes knocking at your door, how can you tell whether it’s a legitimate sales company rep or a teenager who’s become involved in a dangerous traveling sales crew? The following tips can help you evaluate the situation, while keeping you – and the young worker – safe.

Stay Safe 

  • be very cautious about allowing people into your home unless you have requested the sales visit or are familiar with the company.

  • if alone, don’t let anyone in your home.

  • make sure minors alone at home do not open doors to strangers.

Be Smart

  • if your community requires door-to-door salespersons to have a permit, ask to see it and don’t do business with anyone without it.

  • be skeptical of dishonest sales tactics often used by traveling sales crews, such as:

  • the salesperson is in a contest and will win prizes for making sales.

  • the company is a charitable, nonprofit organization, yet you’ve never heard of it before.

  • the sales benefit youth programs to help youth stay off drugs, learn entrepreneurial skills, youth empowerment, etc.

  • the salesperson refuses to take “no” for an answer and uses high-pressure tactics, such as intimidating or threatening customers or refusing to leave until they buy something.

  • read before you sign a sales agreement.

  • get a receipt for any purchase.

  • never pay in cash.

  • don’t assume you can cancel an order. Yes, by law, you should be able to cancel if the order is more than $25. But, unethical companies may not provide real telephone numbers to call in order to cancel an order.

Be Aware

  • if you suspect that the salesperson is part of traveling sales crew, don’t let them into your home and don’t buy their products.

  • contact the police to notify them that a crew is operating in your neighborhood. Provide them with the name of the company and the product being peddled.

  • contact the police if you are concerned about the youth’s safety, such as working in inclement weather, visibly ill, etc.

Standards Ethical Door-to-Door Salespersons Should Follow

Keep in mind the following guidelines for ethical sales:

  • Offers should be clear, so consumers understand exactly what they are buying and how much they will have to pay.

  • The order form should clearly describe the goods and quantity purchased, the price and terms of payment, and any additional charges.

  • Recipients and contracts should show the name of the sales representative and his or her address or the name, address and telephone number of the firm whose product is sold.

  • All salespersons should promptly identify themselves to a prospective customer and should truthfully indicate the purpose of their approach to the consumer, identifying the company or product brands represented.

  • A salesperson should obey all applicable federal, state and local laws.

  • A salesperson should explain the terms and conditions for returning a product or canceling an order.

  • Salespersons should not create confusion in the mind of the consumer, abuse the trust of the consumer, nor exploit the lack of experience or knowledge of the consumer.

  • Salespersons should respect the privacy of consumers by making every effort to make calls at times that best suit the customer’s convenience and wishes.

  • It is a consumer’s right to end a sales call and salespersons should respect that right.

  • All references to testimonials and endorsements should be truthful, currently applicable, and authorized by the person or organization quoted.

  • Product comparisons should be fair and based on substantiated facts.

  • A salesperson should not disparage other products or firms.

  • A salesperson should not try to make the consumer cancel a contract made with another salesperson.

Alcohol: How it all adds up – National Consumers League

Wine. Beer. Wine cooler. Cocktail. Mixed drink. Different kinds of drinks, different amounts of alcohol, right? Wrong!

It’s a mistake many people make. In truth, standard serving sizes of all alcohol beverages — beer, wine, and liquor — are equal in alcohol strength and effect on the body.

Says who?
The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture, define a drink of alcohol as “12 oz. of regular beer, 5 oz. of wine, and 1.5 oz. of 80-proof distilled spirits.”

In a survey commissioned by the National Consumers League, respondents said they want more information about alcoholic beverages. Ninety-three percent said they want information on alcohol content, and 87 percent want information on the amount of alcohol per serving.

So, here it is. This fact sheet will help you understand how much alcohol you’re getting, no matter what drink you choose. Knowing the alcohol equivalency of standard serving sizes of different types of drinks is essential to consumers who want to drink responsibly. And experts agree. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “Alcohol is alcohol. Beer has the same effect as straight scotch. One 12-oz. beer has as much alcohol as a 1.5-oz. shot of whiskey or a 5-oz. glass of wine.”

How could that be?
One ounce of beer contains less alcohol than one ounce of spirits, but the standard serving of beer is a 12-oz. can or bottle. Here’s how it adds up:

  • Beer contains between 4 and 7 percent alcohol by volume, with the average being 5 percent alcohol by volume. 12 oz. x 5 percent alcohol by volume = 0.6 oz. of alcohol/serving.
  • The same is true of wine. The standard serving of wine is 5 oz., which generally contains between 11 and 13 percent alcohol by volume. 5 oz. x 12 percent alcohol by volume = 0.6 oz. of alcohol/serving.
  • Liquor (distilled spirits) is most often consumed in mixed drinks with 1.5-oz. spirits. Sometimes spirits (vodka, gin, scotch, bourbon, etc.) are mixed with water, club soda, or juice or served “straight” or “on the rocks.” No matter how spirits are consumed, a standard serving (1.5 oz.) of 80 proof (40 percent alcohol by volume) of distilled spirits has the same amount of alcohol as standard servings of beer and wine. So 1.5 oz. x 40 percent alcohol by volume = 0.6 oz. of alcohol/serving.

This means that a typical or standard serving of beer, wine, or spirits each contain 0.6 fluid ounces of alcohol.

Alcohol and medications don’t mix
Drinking beer, wine, or liquor while taking painkillers, allergy medicines, cough and cold remedies, and a number of other commonly used over-the-counter or prescription drugs can be extremely dangerous. Always READ THE LABEL to determine if the medication carries a specific warning about consuming alcohol. Ask your health provider or pharmacist about dangers involved in taking medication if you plan on drinking alcohol – and don’t forget to ask about dangers involved in mixing alcohol with dietary supplements or herbals.

Or make it easy on yourself—avoid alcohol altogether while taking any drug.

Underage drinking: alcohol is alcohol
An alarming number of parents (88 percent) mistakenly conclude that beer is safer than liquor, according to a survey by Widmeyer Research and Polling for the Center for Government Reform.

Parents should not allow teens to drink any alcohol, beer or otherwise. Teens’ brains are still developing, and alcohol can affect a teen’s ability to learn and remember, impairing academic performance. Teen alcohol has also been linked to future health problems, delinquency, suicide, and auto accidents.

Besides, it’s illegal to supply a minor with alcohol! Set a good example for your kids.

And a word about binge drinking.

We often hear from the media about young people, especially college students, drinking so much alcohol that they pass out, end up in the hospital, or worse, die from alcohol poisoning.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), binge drinking happens when someone’s blood alcohol concentration reaches .08% or higher. In order to reach .08%, men typically have to drink 5 standard drinks and women have to drink 4 standard drinks. Combined with poor nutrition and lack of exercise, excessive alcohol use can eventually lead to brain and liver damage or various cancers. The Harvard School of Public Health reports that nearly one-quarter of college students engage in binge drinking.

And binge drinking is also linked to accidents such as motor-vehicle crashes, falls, and drowning.

Parents can help their college age students to recognize and resist peer pressure which often leads to drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and binge drinking. Emphasize that young people don’t need to drink to have fun.

Do the Math
To enjoy responsibly, remember the facts: standard sizes of different drinks all contain equal amounts of alcohol. Don’t kid yourself into thinking beer or wine is “safer” or less “potent” than the “hard stuff.” In your body, all alcohol is the same.

With this important fact in mind, the following are some basic do’s and don’ts that are an essential part of safe drinking:

  • Do drink responsibly and in moderation.
  • Do have a designated driver.
  • Don’t drink alcohol if you’re on medication — prescription and non-prescription.
  • Do be aware that a typical or standard serving of beer, wine, or spirits contains the same amount of alcohol.
  • Parents should not allow underage children to drink alcohol.
  • Don’t drink alcohol if you are pregnant or nursing.
  • Don’t serve to or buy alcohol for people under 21.

When it comes to drinking alcohol, the old adage is true: It doesn’t matter what you drink, it’s really how much that counts.