Articles Posted in Amputation

Last week The Oregonian reported on the ordeal of an Albany man, a story that is both inspiring and, in some ways, troubling. The paper reports that the man, a 40-year-old machine operator at a lumber mill, was scheduled to be released from Legacy Emanuel Medical Center after nearly 10 days of treatment following an accident in which his right arm was severed while he worked on a lumber company’s processing line.

Quick action by both co-workers and doctors allowed his arm to be reattached following hours of delicate surgery. One colleague provided critical first aid. Another had the presence of mind to ensure that medics took the severed arm with them as the accident victim was transported to the hospital. Once there, according to the chief surgeon on the trauma team handling the case, the fact that the cut was, in his words, “fairly clean” made the daunting task of reattachment more achievable.

The same doctor told reporters that he expects the machine operator “to eventually regain some sensation and make at least a partial recovery,” the newspaper reports.

The videos on The Oregonian’s website are arresting: a table saw stopping abruptly as it comes into contact with a hot dog (standing in for a human finger as part of a demonstration), leaving the hot dog barely nicked. The technology, called “Saw Stop”, was developed by a Portland lawyer (with a PhD in Physics) whose Tualatin-based company now manufactures its own table saws after failing to sell industry leaders on the technology. It represents a dramatic leap forward in safety: something that could decrease the number of Oregon amputations significantly were it to come into wider use.

The lawyer/inventor/physicist, Stephen Glass, designed a technology that allows the saw to distinguish flesh from things it ought to be cutting (such as wood or metal). When the blade senses it is in contact with flesh it stops and retracts, Glass claims, 10 times faster than an airbag deploys in an Oregon auto crash. Glass and his partners set up their own company to sell saws using their technology after the country’s leading tool manufacturers refused to license it, deciding, Glass said, that “safety doesn’t sell.” This, he says, despite an estimated 60,000 table saw injuries each year in the United States, about 3000 of which lead to amputations.

What may change this equation is a recent Massachusetts jury decision against Roybi, a large table saw manufacturer, awarding $1.5 million to a man who mangled his hand while working with one of the company’s table saws. The Oregonian reports that 60 similar cases have already been filed nationwide. Since Glass believes the tool companies were uninterested in his technology because they had not previously been held liable for the injuries their products can cause, the evolving legal landscape may lead to a change in the business environment.