Chain saws can help, but they can also hurt
By JUDY STARK
Published April 16, 2006
The most important rule for chain saw safety is this: If you've never used one before, the morning after the hurricane is not the time to teach yourself. Serious injury or death can result. The offseason is a good time to learn.
Carl Smith, a fifth-generation logger who now trains chain saw operators for timber companies, says, "A chain saw is the most dangerous hand tool that can be purchased on the open market. It requires no license and no training to own or operate.'' Grabbing a chain saw, he says, "is like grabbing a hand grenade without a pin in it. It is very likely to go off in your face.''
About 40,000 chain saw accidents and deaths happen every year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission says.
If you don't know what you're doing, leave this work to the professionals. If you are experienced with a chain saw, remember these safety tips:
-- Review the owner's manual before you start work.
-- Wear a hard hat and ear and eye protection. Wear close-fitting long pants (preferably with protective chaps), gloves and steel-toed work boots. No bare feet, sandals or slippery shoes.
-- Never work alone. Always have a helper. Keep children and pets away. Don't work when you're tired.
-- Beware of broken or hanging branches, attached vines or a dead tree that is leaning. All can be hazardous to the saw operator.
-- Use a chain saw at ground level only, not on a ladder or in a tree. Do not hold the saw higher than your waist.
-- A dull saw is a dangerous saw. It should be sharpened and should have a clean air filter, a good spark plug and an effective muffler.
-- Stand on the uphill side when cutting, because a tree may roll. A downed tree can weigh several tons.
-- When removing limbs from a fallen tree, wedge or block the trunk in place so the tree won't roll or move as you work.
-- Never stand on a log and saw between your feet. Stand to one side of the limb you are cutting; never straddle it.
-- Trim limbs from a fallen trunk while standing opposite the trunk.
-- A common cause of chain saw injury is kickback, which occurs when the upper tip of the guide bar touches an object or when the wood closes in and pinches the saw chain in the cut.
Kickback may cause lightning-fast reverse action of the guide bar back toward the operator.
Results of kickback include severe upper body, neck and facial lacerations or death. Safety chains and other safety features on chain saws can minimize, but not eliminate, this hazard.
Sources: American Red Cross, Illinois Cooperative Extension Service, North Dakota State University Extension Service, Forestry at about.com, Hillsborough County Extension Service