Chainsaw is a common yet very dangerous tool. The best time to review chainsaw safety is now.
I’m not a logger. But I have the pleasure of working closely with many loggers through New York Logger Training by helping organize chainsaw safety courses for loggers in the Catskills and Lower Hudson regions of New York. The one thing I’ve taken away from years of working with this program is that cutting down trees is complex, dangerous and requires a great deal of skill.
I recently ran across this gem of a picture and I think it demonstrates key elements of chainsaw safety. How many chainsaw hazards can you spot in the photo?
- No chain break on the chain saw: Chain breaks stop the chain from rotating if the saw forcefully kicks-back toward your body. If you think you’re strong enough to keep your saw from kicking back, think again: it’s physically impossible. With a chain brake you might escape this situation with only cuts and bruises. But without a chain brake you’ll probably end up in the hospital with a really cool scar and eye patch.
- No hard hat: Even living trees are full of dead branches. A hard hat protects your head while your attention is focused on controlling the fifteen pounds of whirling dismemberment screaming in your hands.
- No chainsaw chaps: Remember that 15 pounds of whirling dismemberment? If your arms get tired or you slip you can expect that buzzing chain to end up near your legs. That saw will cut an Achilles tendon, the ligaments in your knee or your femoral artery no problem. Chainsaw chaps are made of layers of Kevlar that are designed to stop the spinning chain by clogging it before it cuts you. If you have an accident and cut your chaps reflect on the beauty of Kevlar as you walk into the store to buy a new pair. If you have another accident a damaged pair of chaps won’t protect you again.
- No face shield and eye protection: Saw dust, bark chips, bar oil from the saw, or metal nails hiding in the wood are all flying hazards that may target your face.
- Poor choice of shoes: A running chainsaw will slice through Crocks like they’re not even there, giving you an awesome limp to go with that eye patch and scar. You need a good stiff boot, preferably reinforced with steel or hard plastic, to protect your feet from dropped saws or rolling logs. You also need good traction to stay on your feet while you make your cuts or to run away if things go wrong.
- No ear protection: I my opinion, loss of hearing is the best case scenario for this situation. At least you won’t be dead or dismembered. Use earplugs or muffs because they’re cheap, easy to use and who needs to listen to a chainsaw scream at full throttle anyway.
- Cutting a dead tree: The bark is falling off and you can see holes from wood eating bugs and the wood peckers: this tree is definitely dead. Live wood is strong, controllable and ultimately predictable when felling it. And even though dead trees might be standing, fungus is eating away their remaining strength, making the wood softer and weaker. This makes dropping a dead tree unpredictable and very dangerous. Dead trees are best left to the professionals.
- Pulling the tree down with a rope: See that yellow rope in the upper left? If you have to use a rope to pull a tree down as you cut it then you don’t know what you’re doing. Hire a professional. Trees weigh hundreds of pounds, or more. If it falls the wrong way the rope could remove a hand or rip the bumper off your truck. It can also get in your way as you try to make an escape from the base of the tree if things go wrong.
Does this photo look like you? Do yourself and your family a favor. Put down the chainsaw and check out this information on chainsaw safety.
This article is clearly approached with some humor, but chainsaw safety is no joke. Be prepared, be safe, be smart, and hopefully you can put off measuring for that eye patch. It’s just not your style.