While contingency-fee grabbing ambulance chasers are the reason why
insurance premiums are soaring, the concept ("there are no accidents,
only negligence") is hardly new, nor restricted to CFGAC lawyers.
It's a standard mantra in the shooting sports that there are no
accidental discharges, only negligent discharges. An accident is
something that could not be foreseen. A saw cutting something that
touches the blade is hardly unforeseeable; it's the intended purpose.
Something touching the blade that you didn't intend to cut (like your
fingers) might be unintentional, and is definitely undesirable, but it
isn't unforeseeable. Failing to safeguard against the undesirable but
foreseeable is tantamount to negligence.
Returning to insurance... if it was truly *accident* insurance, then it
would be no-fault, and your insurance would pay for your injuries.
Instead, blame is assigned to determine whose insurance pays. Thus,
insurance pays for negligence, not accidents. ;-)
Good thing I took Business Law 101 mumble-mumble years ago! <G>
| Failing to safeguard against the undesirable but foreseeable
| is tantamount to negligence.
I can't disagree with this logic, but I disagree with the extent to which it
is often carried. We have determined by long experience that it is simply
not possible, even far less feasible, to foresee all combinations of
circumstances or chains of events that lead to an unfortunate outcome in
some case. We become adept at seeing them in hindsight, and reasonably
adept at prevent that same arrangement of circumstances from having the same
outcome in the future. But if you want to relate foresight and negligence
in absolute terms, and thereby condemn as negligent by definition anyone who
has an unfortunate experience, that's something I'm not prepared to accept.
Failing to take the precautions available is negligent. But believing that
every misfortunate has or had a viable precaution is naive.
| I was presenting the argument; it's not one that I support absolutely.
Fair enough. It is not my aim to be argumentative for its own sake. My
engineering training included elements of failure and reliability analysis,
and that's a part of what I do professionally. I have had to diagnose
failures in well-built systems operated by people with more-than-expert
understanding, and often the failures come down to a completely unforeseen
(and highly improbable) combination of events. There are many physical and
psychological factors that affect failure prediction and analysis.
Now there's a vast difference between something like a nuclear power plant
and a simple table saw. So vague handwaving about the unpredictability of
complex systems is only partially applicable to what happens in a woodshop.
I own power tools, and it's my goal to die with all my fingers and toes
still attached. And so I operate my power tools with as much care as I can
muster. And we've heard several people confess that their injuries were
caused by their own carelessness or impatience. How many times, setting up
a rip on my RAS, have I thought, "Do I *really* need to deploy the kickback
guards? What are the chances this particular piece of stock will kick
back?" That, of course, is the beginning of many stories told in emergency
May I submit the system was not as well built as you believe and your
experts are lacking.
If a designer/ engineer/ expert fails to see a potential situation (the
highly improbable?) then the system failure is likely to be completely
What a wicked little circle.
I've also seen clientitus, where a customer rep or consultant looses
sight of their function and loyalties. They begin to act as though the
contractors their employer, not the customer.
Dominos always fall with the first one. This causes that which causes
something else and soon it's an unforeseen circumstance.
Nuclear power plants? Can you say Davis-Bessie? Chernobyl on the north
coast. A very complex system with a very simple fault, a simple leak.
D-B is reported to have many design faults but those aren't the ones
that damned near killed us.
Truth is for everything someone wants to call an accident you only need
to find the first domino and the events leading up to it's tipping and
virtually every time you'll find it could have been easily prevented.
If you find the first domino was caused to fall by something previously
unknown then it is an unpreventable accident.
For example, (IIRC) Madame Curie got cancer in later life from her handling
of radioactive materials. No one knew the danger.
Much human knowledge came from people analyzing something that broke and all
too often had mangled body parts in it.
| May I submit the system was not as well built as you believe
| and your experts are lacking.
You may submit such, if you're willing to endure a very long lecture on the
mathematical nature of complex systems. I still maintain that it is not
possible to engineer a system that cannot fail. There are only two classes
of design: those that have failed, and those that have not yet failed.
Failure of a system is de facto proof of a deficiency of that system's
design or operation. That I grant you easily. The fallacy is in assuming
that such a failure should have been foreseen and that some degree of
negligence or incapacity must necessarily have played a part in the ensuing
Inability of an operator to correctly diagnose and alleviate a failure is de
facto proof of a deficiency in that operator's understanding. The question
is whether a comprehensive understanding of a complex system is possible,
and thus whether operator error is synonymous with culpability. Experts
always "lack". The question is whether they culpably "lack".
| If a designer/ engineer/ expert fails to see a potential situation
| (the highly improbable?) then the system failure is likely to be
| completely unforeseen.
That is substantially my point. The question lies in what is reasonably
foreseeable. As systems become very complex, the ability to predict all
possible behaviors drops off dramatically, as I shall explain.
| Dominos always fall with the first one. This causes that which
| causes something else and soon it's an unforeseen circumstance.
Yes, in simple linear failure modes. Most systems of any interest are not
You also have to consider the notion of coupling, which is analogous to how
closely spaced the dominos are. Move the dominos farther apart and they
fall more slowly, perhaps allowing you time to jump in and stop the cascade.
Move them sufficiently far apart and the fall of one domino does not affect
another. Loosely-coupled systems allow time for operators or automatons to
diagnose the problem and try a remedy.
A table saw is a tightly-coupled system in that, say, the misfeed of stock
may be separated in time from a ball of hamburger at the end of your wrist
by only a few milliseconds. This leaves very little time for the operator
to notice the problem and apply a remedy.
You also have to consider the notion of non-linearity, which is analogous to
"branching" the domino chain and starting two concurrent paths of failure,
and of mixed-mode failures and feedback systems that have absolutely no
analogue in the world of tumbling dominos but which affect our systems.
Pogo in rocket engines is a good example of a feedback system. An simple
example of a mixed mode failure would be a slippery floor in front of your
table saw: you reach to control the stock, slip, and fall into the blade.
Remove either the table saw or the floor contaminant and the accident might
have been preventable. But neither is necessarily foreseeable by the agent
controlling the other.
Non-linear systems are difficult to diagnose because cause and effect are
not always straightforwardly observed.
Take several thousand dominos and place them in a room. Arrange them in
criss-crossing patterns with several intersections, branches, and loops.
Now turn off the lights -- you don't get to observe at one glance the state
of the entire system. All you have is a flashlight and your ears. When you
hear the dominos start to fall it's your job to stop them all falling, using
only your flashlight and your memory of the domino layout. You have only
seconds, or at best, minutes.
| Truth is for everything someone wants to call an accident you only need
| to find the first domino and the events leading up to it's tipping and
| virtually every time you'll find it could have been easily prevented.
That's hindsight. We're talking about foresight.
You're also forgetting that most failures are mixed-mode failures: the
combination of several conditions to produce a failure. Oil on the floor is
itself a manageable risk. A table saw is itself a manageable risk. Oil on
the floor in front of your table saw is a *set* of circumstances that
*together* spell a significant danger. Remove either of those conditions
and the risk is substantially mitigated. But the trick is to recognize that
*combination* of circumstances as dangerous.
In systems that employ literally thousands of components, the ways in which
those components can interact is a number so large as to lose all meaning.
This is the mathematical nature of complex systems and the reason why you
can't predict their operation in foresight. To recognize in advance every
potentially dangerous *combination* of all those components and all their
respective operational states is simply impossible. It cannot be done.
When you design or operate a complex system you don't have the luxury of
knowing ahead of time which paths of operation will lead to failure. You
don't have the luxury of a single solitary path to reason through. You
don't have the luxury of concentrating your attention on one variable that
you know to be a root cause of some potential failure.
Imagine you're in a very large office building with which you are
unfamiliar. There is a bomb in the building, wired into the building's
electrical system. If you flip a certain combination of light switches
either on or off, it will disarm the bomb. You do not know where all the
light switches in the building are -- but you realize there are about a
thousand of them. You do not know how many of the switches are wired into
the bomb, and how many are still wired to the lights. You do not know
whether to turn any particular switch on or off in order to disarm the bomb.
The bomb is on a timer, so you don't have forever to experiment with the
And my TI, TSgt Bowels.
No matter how much I disagreed with the concept at the time it was
introduced, in the last twenty something years I have come to see it's
true. Or 99.9% true.
I won't take exception to your referring to me as a lawyer so I won't
post how you must be a mamby pamby MaMas boy who believes everything
that happens is someone else's fault thus releasing you of any personal
responsibility so you can go on through this world fat, dumb and happy
in your ignorance.
Nope, won't post that at all.
There needs to be a common sense balance.
I witnessed a two-car accident. There were 5 high school students in one
car. No one was injured in either car. I chatted with the teen driver
while the police and tow trucks were working. I told him that had he been
driving a 1940's automobile there would have been serious injuries, maybe
- No seat belts, and getting all cut up by going through a windshield --
especially pre safety glass, is very nasty. My boss vividly remembers an
accident he saw when he was young. The person only made it part way through
the windshield and IIRC died before the emergency workers could get him out.
Tumbling out of the car and/or having it roll over the top of you can also
ruin an otherwise promising career.
- Non-collapsible steering columns that came back to your chest.
Sometime into your chest.
- Engines & transmissions that ended up in the passenger compartment with
- No air bags.
Government safety standards had a lot to do with making these proven safety
Many of us have bled all over our tools & shop floors. A college roommate
had an 8-inch scar on his arm. A great uncle twice cut off parts of three
I would like to see SawStop-like features become common. Between the
blood-sucking lawyers and bean counters, the government often *has* to
mandate things or they just don't happen. I wish it wasn't that way.
I'd love to see good safety features, but Saw Stop's owners went about it the
wrong way after being slowed to a halt on their first try. The second try:
getting the Feds to force the gate.
Back in either '56 or '57, Ford brought out seat belts, even then a proven
safety device (in competition vehicles). The cost to the consumer was something
low, even for the day, maybe $7. Bombed big time because people would not pay
for seat belts as an option. The government forced seat belts into vehicles in,
IIRC, the middle or late 70s. They have saved many thousands of lives.
But for a manufacturer to try to get the government to use unproven technology
that adds appreciably to the cost of an item, especially when lower cost safety
options are available, is just plain wrong headed. Saw Stop may save fingers.
It will seldom save lives. And every time it fires, there's going to be a cost
that is a sizeable fraction of the cost of the entire tool. There is no
information on false firings that I've seen, nor is there reliable information
on possible damage to trunnions, motor mounts, blades and similar parts. If the
information is available, it should make it into more public arenas for
consideration, whether it is favorable or unfavorable. Then, maybe, Joe and
Jane Sixpack may be willing to spend $500 to $700 extra for the unit. Until
then, it does seem unlikely, as does government intervention.
We do have to remember, though, that back in the early or middle '70s a few
enlightened Congressional types called for seat belts on motorcycles, so who
knows what might happen.
"Man is a reasoning rather than a reasonable animal."
There's an OpEd piece from the 1970's on Opinion Journal this week.
Seems that during that time, catalytic converters were one option to
reduce emissions. Stratified charge engines, which converted waste fuel
into actual MOTION, as opposed to the catalytic converter's waste heat,
were being explored by Honda among others.
GM bought up several years usage worth of platinum.
Then they agressively lobbied Congress to mandate catalytic converters,
which use platinum, which naturally caused the price of platinum to
climb significantly. This hurt all other car makers. It hurt Chrysler
enough that they needed a bail out.
But of COURSE GM had only the BEST of intentions. . .
(Mike, I've NO idea whether or not GM has ever made a blanket chest)
I guess you can say "damn if you do, damn if you don't" from a manufacturers
The class action lawyers could be already lining up because there was a
safety solution available to avoid the accidents and they could argue that
the manufacturers were looking to make the almighty buck at the expense of
some poor woodworking Joe-Bag-of-Doughnuts.
They already provide a cover and splitter for stock table saws that suck.
Everyone in the industry knows that zero clearance throat plates prevent
kickback in certain circumstances and what do they cost? But they are not
provided a stock with table saw purchases.It's all about the almighty buck.
If you look at the auto industry and without the government intervening on
seat belts,crash protection, and airbags we would be facing higher causality
rates on our roads. Nobody I know buys Volvo's because they are sportier
than a BMW.
I read recently that Health Insurers are looking at ways to minimize risk
with their policies by limiting coverage on their insured who have dangerous
hobbies. This is another attempt for them reduces claims and expenses. Can
you imagine them classifying woodworking as a hazardous hobby?
Where does it stop nobody knows. I hope that SAW STOP makes traction with
other manufacturers and their own product line.
On Sun, 14 Dec 2003 08:14:53 -0700, "George M. Kazaka"
He has a "how-to" TV show.
Agreed. However, anytime you are instructing anyone, you owe it to
them to demonstrate the safest possible method. What they do later is
up to them.
Anyone on TeeVee should demonstrate safe and correct methods.
Hafta admit I do that a lot with my crosscut sled. If I'm cutting a board
into 12" chunks or whatever, I'll set a stop, push through, pull back, take
the piece off, move the work up, repeat. Taking the piece off on the far
side of the blade, where I'm reaching over it, strikes me as a lot more
dangerous. Even if I were patient enough to cut the machine off and wait
for the blade to stop between cuts, I don't like to do that. My blade runs
reasonably true at speed, but when it's spinning up or slowing down, it
flaps from side to side dramatically, and wallows out the kerf in the sled.
Even avoiding that as much as possible, the kerf is quite V shaped, and
useless as a reference for figuring out where the blade is going to cut.
(Yeah, my saw does suck. Indeed, indeed, indeed.)
Michael McIntyre ---- Silvan < email@example.com>
Linux fanatic, and certified Geek; registered Linux user #243621
Not so bad of an issue with a cross cut sled on 90d cuts if you're careful
... but, at least to me, a big NO NO with a miter gauge.
On that same line, and if I am cutting absolutely precise miters, I do not
pull the sled back when cutting miters on my TS miter sled, but instead turn
the saw off and let the blade stop before removing the work piece.
I've ruined too many miters by just the slightest whisk of the blade hitting
the workpiece on the backstroke. For the 60 seconds, total, it takes for
four cuts, allowing the blade to come to a complete stop has saved me more
than a few hundred dollars worth of stock.
But, as they say, YMMV more than my .02.
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