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Workplace Safety: Should Employers Provide Safest Equipment?

For many businesses, workplace safety is a constant balancing act. Managers seek to find the point at which the money they are willing to invest in employee safety balances against the costs of a worker's injuries. After that point, many businesses draw a line and refuse to invest any further.

One example occurs in the construction industry. Numerous construction accidents involve power saws every year. These injuries include potentially permanent damage from amputated fingers or limbs. Even with the best medical treatment, many victims are unlikely to make a full recovery. 

Despite these dangers, construction companies are ignoring a readily available technology that could prevent all of these injuries. A product known as SawStop can detect the difference between wood and human flesh-and the device can react by instantly stopping a high-powered blade to avoid harming the worker.

However, this technology is still expensive enough that employers are unwilling to buy machines that have it installed. Most managers would rather pay the insurance costs of an occasional injury than take a more expensive step to prevent similar accidents.

Source: MotherJones, "Saws Cut Off 4,000 Fingers a Year. This Gadget Could Fix That," Myron Levin, May 16, 2013 

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