LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 1, 2012) - The following column appeared in the Lexington Herald-Leader on Sunday, April 29.
Spring brings about a host of outdoor garden and yard activities. Lawn mowers restart after a six-month hiatus, blowers clear leaves from last fall and chain saws remove the debris of winter.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 36,000 people are treated for chain-saw injuries in emergency rooms each year. Here are some tips to avoid accidents.
• Read the operator’s manual, and obey safety and operating instructions.
• The chain saw should not be leaking fluids or have loose or missing parts.
• The pull rope should not be damaged or frayed.
• Properly sharpen chainsaw blades and properly lubricate the blade with bar and chain oil. Periodically check and adjust the tension of the blade to ensure good cutting action.
• Air filters should be clean to ensure proper air flow.
• Choose the proper size chain saw to match the job, and include safety features such as a chain brake, front and rear hand guards, stop switch, chain catcher and a spark arrester.
• Wear the appropriate protective equipment, including hard hat, safety glasses, hearing protection, heavy work gloves, cut-resistant leg coverings that extend from the waist to the top of the foot, and boots that cover the ankle.
• Never let an inexperienced person handle the chain saw.
• Picture how the tree will fall, and plan two escape routes, like the letter “Y” away from the falling tree.
• Test the chain brake to ensure it stops the chain immediately.
• If the chain saw is not running smoothly, do not use it.
• Avoid overhead power lines and downed lines.
• Look up before walking beneath trees after a storm. Broken tree limbs might be lodged in trees, but can easily fall.
• Never work under a tree that is lodged against another tree.
• When a tree is uprooted or downed, it creates an unnatural pattern of pressure points and tension. When a tensioned limb or trunk is cut, it might have an extremely violent, catapult-like reaction. Consult a professional.
• Do not cut to allow trees to fall uphill.
• Watch for downed utility lines, and never try to move them without professional assistance.
• Always cut at waist level or below to ensure that you maintain secure control over the chain saw.
• Be patient and allow the chain saw to do the work.
• Bystanders or coworkers should remain at least two tree lengths, or at least 150 feet, away from anyone felling a tree and at least 30 feet from anyone operating a chain saw.
• If injury occurs, apply direct pressure over site of heavy bleeding.
Being prepared can reduce your risk of injury while operating a chain saw.
If you are uncertain whether you can safely use a chain saw for clearing debris, call a professional.
These simple but important steps can help keep you and those around you safe.
Mark Schneider is a research associate with the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center.