How Much Would You Pay to Make Sure You Never Sawed Off a Finger?

“ Government mandates of new safety technology are classic trade-offs, whether the product is a power tool or a car or a pill. In this case, regulations requiring that table saws be sold with this safety device might mean a few thousand fingers saved per year. But they might also lead to higher costs for consumers. When the technologies are patented, the trade-offs can become even more clear, like the high prices (and high profits) of drug companies in exchange for the innovation of new drugs. With table saws, it might similarly lead to a period of less competition and more profit for the company that developed the safety mechanism.

Among tools likely to be found in someone’s garage, table saws are the biggest driver of serious woodworking-related injuries: Each year they are responsible for about 30,000 injuries that require emergency department treatment — and nearly 4,300 amputations.

By comparison, the thousands of other products tracked by the Consumer Protection Safety Commission, a federal agency, are responsible for roughly 3,600 amputations per year combined


I’ve met a lot of people missing fingers. Can confirm that saws were the major culprit. My favorite accident root cause: guy was setting mole traps with shotgun shells…

This is good old fashioned safety. No fat-tail risk, just fingies. The utilitarian calculus is more straightforward here. And given the back-of-the-napkin math in the article, I wouldn’t be surprised if Sawstop becomes a standard, much like 3-point seatbelts.

Definitely fits the bill of a Whitehead effect. No need to think about your safety protocol here, so long as your sawblade is fingerphobic

1 Like