A04: Safer Saws

Exultant Inventor
Twelve years ago an avid home woodworker invented an ingenious device that stops a table saw blade within 4/1000ths of a second of contact with human flesh. The technology could prevent thousands of amputations every year in the United States and probably 10 times as many serious but less permanent injuries. Steve Gass has offered to license his technology to every major US table saw manufacturer, but all have declined.

Reluctant Manufacturer
Reluctantly, he claims, Gass has become a table saw manufacturer, so his SawStop technology is available in the marketplace. To date, none of his thousands of customers has suffered an amputation or serious injury from blade contact.

Determined Regulators
Consumer product safety advocates are urging the US government to enact mandatory safety modifications to table saws, arguing in part that the technology is currently available, that it is “breakthrough technology,” and that it is similar to seat belts or air bags in its effectiveness at eliminating serious bodily harm.

Delighted Customers
Owners of commercial woodworking shops who have embraced the technology are more than willing to pay a premium for saws that reduce injuries for many reasons. Injuries are negative in themselves; they cause downtime; they cause increases in worker compensation insurance premiums; they harm the shop’s reputation; they force shops to rehire and retrain replacement workers.

Resistant Free-Marketers
Self-employed craftsmen are more likely to consider any attempt to regulate saw safety as needless government intervention, and saw manufacturers object that the increased cost to produce safer saws, plus the royalty they’ll have to pay to Steve Gass, will double the cost of cheap hobbyist saws that sell in the $100-200 range.

Outraged Plaintiffs

Meanwhile, a miter saw user recently won a large settlement from sawmaker Bosch by arguing that the manufacturer had failed to employ available safety technology that would have prevented his injury. Whatever the merits of his case, sawmakers now fear this first case will multiply out of control. They hope alternatives like better and more acceptable (less likely to be disabled or discarded by users) safety guards will satisfy the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s warnings that regulation is being considered.

Conscientious Students

You’ll find links to a wide range of materials in the sidebar to guide your study of this topic, but of course I encourage you to follow links and searches to your own fresh sources as well. Share those you find by publishing new links within your posts, or send them on to me for inclusion in the sidebar.

TWO-PART ASSIGNMENT WITH TWO DEADLINES

Assignment Part 1, for THU FEB 07: Identify and analyze one claim from any of the constituents of this argument. PLEASE NOTE: That means read and/or listen to the source material. DON’T select from among the brief descriptions I have made above. I’m not arguing the case in these descriptions. The assignment IS NOT source material.

  1. Quote the constituent
  2. Paraphrase or explain what claim is made if necessary, or simply repeat the quote if not.
  3. Identify what type of claim is being made.
  4. In a few sentences, evaluate the accuracy, quality, reasonableness, logic, and persuasiveness of the claim, and any support that is offered for the claim.
  5. Obviously no claim can contain all the evidence necessary to support it, so I’ll ask not to disqualify claims just because they’re insufficient to prove themselves.
  6. You may also choose to refute the claim, again in a few sentences, if you disagree with it.

Model Post

Here’s an example of a reasonably good post based on a quote from the article, “Bosch Tools Dragged Into SawStop-centric Lawsuit.” (I think the numbers are quite helpful.)

1. An unnamed reviewer from Pro Tool Reviews wrote, “What came next is a bit of controversy as Gass attempted to pursue legislation to make his patented technology mandatory through the Consumer Protection Safety Commission, apparently after receiving little support for his proposal to license the technology to manufacturers.”

2. This one sentence contains several claims which, taken together, amount to a fairly complex short argument.

  • 2a. First, it claims that a controversy resulted from Gass’s pursuit of legislation to make SawStop mandatory.
  • 2b. That claim contains a smaller claim that Gass attempted to pursue legislation mandating SawStop.
  • 2c. Also claimed is that Gass received little support for his proposal to license SawStop to manufacturers.
  • 2d. Finally, it is claimed  that his pursuit of legislation followed his rebuff by manufacturers.

3. Since the one sentence contains at least four claims, I’ll identify what types of claims they are alphanumerically, as above.

  • The first claim (2a) is a causal claim that states a “controversy” resulted from Gass’s pursuit of legislation mandating SawStop.
  • The second claim (2b) sounds like a simple factual claim that Gass pursued particular legislation. The odd “attempted to pursue” might just be bad writing (what’s the difference between pursuing and attempting to pursue?), or it could be deliberately vague to make Gass appear to be lobbying for a law when in fact he might just have supported someone else’s effort to get a law passed.
  • The third claim (2c) that Gass “received little support” for his attempt to license SawStop also appears to be a simple factual claim. It’s vagueness, however, again makes it hard to accurately interpret. What would amount to “support for his proposal to license the technology to manufacturers”?
    ……….On one end of the spectrum, it could mean simply, “Entered into no licensing agreements with manufacturers.”
    ……….On the other end, it could mean, “Faced active hostility from manufacturers, industry analysts, government regulators, consumer groups, and  woodworking trade associations, all of whom unanimously denounced his invention as a useless scam.”
    ……….
    Somewhere in between it might mean: “Never found the price that sawmakers could absorb to provide added safety and still sell the same number of saws they always had at the same or at an increased profit.”
  • The fourth claim (2d), that Gass sought favorable legislation after receiving no commercial support, is a causal claim that draws the conclusion that it was “apparently” the failure to get sawmakers to adopt his product voluntarily that prompted Gass to seek a legislative mandate.

4. The first claim (2a), that a controversy occurred, is unsubstantiated, but most likely means manufacturers resented Gass for pursuing a mandate.

The second claim (2b), that Gass pursued a mandate, is probably accurate, at least to the degree that he supported and did not resist one.

The third claim (2c), that Gass, received little support for his licensing proposals, is supported by Gass’s own stated regrets that he waited in vain for industry to adopt his safety feature. Whether they resisted for reasons of cost, liability concerns, or doubts that the technology would be effective has not been established.

The fourth claim (2d), that the pursuit of legislation followed the disinterest of manufacturers is certainly true factually. What is unclear is whether Gass pursued legislation because manufacturers resisted his product or merely after they did so.

GRADE DETAILS PART 1

  • DUE THU FEB 07 before class.
  • Title your post: Saws Part I—Your Name
  • Publish your post in 2 categories: A04: Safer Saws and Author/Your Name.
  • Customary late penalties. (0-24 hours 10%) (24-48 hours 20%) (48+ hours, 0 grade)
  • Quizzes and Exercises category (10%)

Assignment Part 2, for TUE FEB 12: Identify one claim from each of the constituents of this controversial argument. What sort of claim is it? Do you find it compelling?
The constituents:

  1. Manufacturers
  2. Customers
  3. Industry Spokespeople
  4. Consumer Safety Advocates
  5. Injured Plaintiffs
  6. Personal Injury Lawyers
  7. Government Officials
  8. News Reporters

There are probably other constituents I haven’t listed. For extra credit, identify them and their claims.

GRADE DETAILS FOR PART 2

  • DUE TUE FEB 12 before class.
  • Customary late penalties. (0-24 hours 10%) (24-48 hours 20%) (48+ hours, 0 grade)
  • Process Writing category (15%)
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About davidbdale

Inventor of and sole practitioner of 299-word Very Short Novels. www.davidbdale.wordpress.com
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