Hurricane Sandy is gone but piles of tree limbs, broken limbs and branches remind us that Mother Nature can get angry. With some luck, Mother will calm down but we are in the midst of Hurricane season so time will tell.
Coventry residents are coping with clean-up and many are using chain saws to reduce the risk of having a tree crash onto or through roofs, a situation that I am quite familiar with after Tropical Storm Irene last year. But while the risk of a falling tree is a genuine risk for many, so are the hazards associated with using a chain saw. In fact, next to commercial fishing, (which is why the TV show is called Deadliest Catch), the business of cutting down trees results in 36,000 emergency visits each year, according to the CDC. Most often the victim was using a chain saw but sometimes the unlucky one is just standing in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Hiring a licensed professional to deal with tree removal is one option but many homeowners prefer to take on smaller scale jobs themselves. It is a good idea to carefully review the printed advice which comes with every chain saw, since each size and style of saw may have some unique operating feature. One common issue is the need to prepare and be comfortable when actually using a chain saw, especially knowing how and where to make the first cut.
John Studley is a licensed professional who deals with tree trimming and removal. Last year, he spoke of an incident where someone misjudged making the initial cut and ended up being wedged against a fallen tree for a couple of hours until rescuers were able to extricate and transport him to the hospital where he spent weeks recovering from injuries.
When asked about the most common mistake made by the average chain saw amateur, Studley said that making sure the tree doesn’t fall close to where you are standing ranks near the top, adding that standing on a ladder with a chain saw is tempting the worst outcome. Studley and many other tree specialists use bucket trucks and/or cranes to make cuts and make sure that the tree ends up in the right spot. OSHA and other safety professionals recommend a minimum distance of 150 feet for anyone standing in the perimeter of the fall zone.
With storm-damaged trees, anyone attempting to cut loose or dangling limbs needs to take extra care in cutting “spring poles”; trees or branches that have gotten bent, twisted, hung up on, or caught under another object during a high wind. If the tree or the branch is suddenly released, it may strike the person cutting it, or a bystander, with enough force to cause serious injury or death. Even a seemingly small tree or branch (two inches in diameter, for example) may pose a hazard when it is released from tension.
The following tips summarize basic chain saw safety:
- Operate, adjust, and maintain the saw according to manufacturer’s instructions provided in the manual accompanying the chain saw.
- Properly sharpen chain saw blades and properly lubricate the blade with bar and chain oil. Additionally, the operator should periodically check and adjust the tension of the chain saw blade to ensure good cutting action.
- Choose the proper size of 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 legwear (chain saw chaps) that extend from the waist to the top of the foot and boots which cover the ankle.
- Avoid contact with power lines until the lines are verified as being de-energized.
- Always cut at waist level or below to ensure that you maintain secure control over the chain saw.
- Bystanders or coworkers should remain at least two tree lengths (at least 150 feet) away from anyone felling a tree and at least 30 feet from anyone operating a chain saw to remove limbs or cut a fallen tree
- If injury occurs, apply direct pressure over site(s) of heavy bleeding; this act may save lives.
Accidents are unplanned events but with some common sense and proactive safety measures, at least 99 percent of the circumstances which result in accidents and injuries can be prevented.