Reduce Safety Risks When Using a Chainsaw | Outside

“Not yet out of the woods” takes on new meaning in the fall, when chainsaw accidents are on the rise.

Chainsaw accidents are painful, costly and preventable, said Hank Stelzer, a state forester at the University of the Missouri Extension. Plan before entering the woods to avoid accidents, he says. “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” is her motto, according to a press release.

The legs, knees, wrists and hands are at the greatest risk for injury when things go wrong in the woods, Stelzer said. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that more than 250 people die from chainsaw accidents in the United States each year. Thousands more suffer serious injuries.

Most chain saw fatalities involve kickback, which occurs when the top end of the chain saw guide bar touches an object. This contact can cause a lightning-quick reverse action of the guide bar towards the operator, which could result in serious injury or death.

Proper protective gear saves lives and reduces the severity of injuries, especially for the occasional operator who makes infrequent visits to the woods, Stelzer said.

Each chainsaw offers advantages and disadvantages. Select the one that meets your needs. Stelzer recommends visiting a qualified dealer with knowledgeable personnel before purchasing a chainsaw. It offers tips in “Selecting and Maintaining a Chainsaw,” available for download at extension.missouri.edu/g1954.

Don’t go into the woods alone, he said. Let others know your location and the estimated time of your return. Take a cell phone and check if you have a signal where you will be working.

Go into the woods with proper safety gear

Stelzer said well-fitting chainsaw leggings and headgear are wise investments. He prefers wrap-around leggings which sell for around $ 100. Measure the leggings from the outside seam, not the crotch, waist or waistband to the top of the boot. Choose a full face helmet with earmuffs and protective or safety glasses. Helmets cost less than $ 60. Choose soft gloves.

Pack a first aid kit with large anti-trauma pads and water bottles for the eyewash station.

Train first

Train employees and young people to use chainsaws correctly and to dress safely. Talk about safety hazards and what to do in an emergency. Always work according to your skill level.

Check the work area

Make sure you have a sure foot. Check if there are other people in the area. Identify power lines in and near the work area. Look for any branches that might dislodge and fall.

Before pulling the starter

Read the manual and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure the chainsaw is in good working order. If you have any doubts about the safety of the chainsaw or your abilities, put the chainsaw down. Never use a chain saw that is damaged or has the safety devices disengaged.

Never start a chainsaw, Stelzer said. Drop starting involves holding the saw with one hand while pulling the starter cord with the other. The operator has no control over the saw when starting in free fall. “It’s a quick and easy way to get to the emergency care clinic… or worse! ” he said.

Stelzer recommends two ways to start the chainsaw:

1. Place the saw on the ground, place your foot inside the rear handle, then place one hand on the upper handlebar and pull the starter rope with the other hand.

2. Hold the saw with one hand, place it between your legs at knee level, tighten the saw firmly and pull the starter rope with your free hand.

“In either case, make sure the safety brake is engaged,” Stelzer said.

Location, location, location

Keep feet securely in place and both hands on the handles. Plan where objects can fall and don’t cut directly overhead.

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