Most outdoorsman types yawn and start tuning out when they think someone is going to tell them something they already know. Maybe it’s just overconfidence, but when a chainsaw is involved it’s past time to tune out and time to wake up. Thinking safety in the woods can prevent a serious injury that might otherwise have been avoided.
Chainsaws are Dangerous
Every year people are hurt by the improper use of chainsaws. Injuries usually result from poor maintenance of the saw, carelessness during use, and fatigue. Eye injuries are caused by flying pieces of sawdust that could have been avoided by the wearing of safety glasses. Taking chances on a tricky cut can result in losing a leg. Injuries are far too common.
Here’s a look at several things to keep in mind while using a chainsaw.
- Keep your chainsaw serviced and functioning well. A loose chain can wrap around the blade when it slips off. A dull blade means a lot of extra work and potentially dangerous fatigue and forcing the cut.
- Wear safety goggles to prevent wood chips and sawdust from hitting your eyes. Severe damage can be done by flying chips. Make sure the goggles are designed for the rigors of deflecting wood chips at high speeds. Regular eyeglasses aren’t recommended as they can break or crack when hit by the debris or at the very least wind up with an irritating chip in the glass.
- Ear protection. Working with a chainsaw is loud. The sound is only accentuated by cold weather and snow covering.
- Use the right saw for the job. Generally speaking, a 16- or 18-inch blade will cut anything destined for the fireplace or the wood burner. Trying to fell a large tree with a saw this size may overtax its capabilities. Using this saw on brush and small branches creates difficulties in the other direction with stress on the chain and consequent breakdowns.
- Anticipate what the experts call a “kickback.” This occurs when the tip or upper end of the saw grabs onto a piece of wood and is thrown back by the force. Kickback can happen in a split second. Keep your head away from a position directly overhead of the saw and a firm grip so that if it kicks back it will already be under control.
- Don’t cut alone. Many wood cutters have been cutting wood for decades and never had a problem, but it only takes one mistake or equipment malfunction to put someone in the hospital, or worse. Have a friend who can call for help if you need it.
- Have a well-charged cell phone. This can save time if an ambulance is needed as well as for ordering a pizza.
- Have a first aid kit ready. Chainsaw injuries are usually serious when they happen but a lot of pokes and cuts can happen in the woods. Non-emergency injuries like scraped knuckles, small cuts and slivers can be taken care of on the spot with a well-stocked first aid kit and the wood cutting go on.
Many wood cutters enjoy a day in the woods clearing out lay downs and dead trees destined for the wood stove or fireplace. But it only takes one slip or a moment of carelessness to put an veteran wood cutter in the emergency room. Permanent disability can result from misusing or failing to respect what a chainsaw can do.
How to Use a Gasoline Powered Chainsaw Safely
It’s obvious the kind of damage a chainsaw can do to a person if it’s handled carelessly. In 1991 the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated that there were more than 44,000 people who needed hospital treatment due to injuries from chainsaws. When operating this type of power tool, the odds of being injured are lowered if the user is alert, well-rested, and exercising sound judgment. Consider the type of work that has to be done and select the appropriate saw.
Many injuries occur as a result of kickback, the sudden and uncontrollable upward motion of the saw when the upper tip of the chain bar meets resistance. To protect the face, head and neck a chainsaw user can buy a wire mesh visor attached to a hardhat. The visor never fogs and stops wood chips and twigs from hitting the eyes. Earmuffs are also essential since chainsaws make a tremendous amount of noise. Many of them are louder than 100 decibels. To prevent hearing loss, use foam ear plugs in concert with the earmuffs.
For the legs, safety pants with cut-resistant ballistic nylon or Kevlar sewn into them provide good protection. If a saw comes into contact with a person’s leg, the outer layer of the pants will be cut through but the underlying fibers are drawn out and wrapped around the saw’s drive sprocket, stopping the chain. The pants should cover the area from the groin to about two inches above the ankles. The final items of safety equipment should be woodcutter’s gloves and boots with steel toe caps and non slip soles.
Maintaining a Chainsaw
A saw that’s in good condition will be easier and safer to use. Learn to inspect the guidebar and chain, the hand guards, the anti-vibration mounts, and all other safety features. A chainsaw will need sharp teeth, proper lubrication and a well tuned engine to work properly. Direct contact with metal, rocks or dirt will dull the chain.
While the chainsaw is running never jam the machine into a cut. Forcing it into a groove will wear down the motor. To make sure the saw cuts smoothly, check the chain tension. If it’s too loose, it will come off; if too tight, the chain will overheat. Wait until the saw has cooled down before adjusting the tension. The air and fuel filters will have to be checked after periods of heavy use and cleaned periodically.
Starting the Engine and Cutting Wood
The safest way to start this tool is on the ground. Look for an area that’s flat and clear of debris. A user should get down on the left knee with the toe of the right boot firmly on the base plate of the trigger guard. Grip the handle of the saw and pull the starter rope. Starting a chainsaw in mid-air by thrusting the machine down with one hand and pulling the cord with the other would be opening the door to serious accidents.
Felling a tree takes great skill. Chainsaw users need to consider various factors that will influence how, and even if it should be felled. There’s wind speed, presence of overhead power lines, branch distribution, escape route and which way the tree is leaning. A potentially lethal hazard is when a tree comes into contact with another and doesn’t fall completely. Novices should never attempt to fell a tree alone and mustn’t operate a chainsaw when physically or mentally fatigued. Leave the difficult jobs in the hands of experienced loggers