The Richmond Register

January 2, 2013

Tips on using chainsaws safely

By Brandon Sears
Extension Agent

RICHMOND — Since trees are now at the driest stage in the growing season, many of you may be dusting off a chainsaw to cut firewood for this winter, to fell trees or do some other tasks around the home or farm.

While chainsaws are  powerful tools, this characteristic also makes them very dangerous.

Improper use can cause  serious injury, or perhaps death.

So, if you’re using a chainsaw, follow these three safety guidelines: know how your saw works and how to properly use it; wear personal protective equipment to protect your eyes, hearing, head, legs and feet; and always work with someone, never alone.

Always read and follow instructions in the owner’s manual. Be sure all parts are present and in good working order.

Check the saw chain for proper tension and sharpness. Use a saw with a working chain brake and low-kickback type of chain.

Be sure the chain is well-lubricated and all safety devices, including the chain brake, are properly working.

Always start a chainsaw with the saw on the ground with one of your toes in the handle and one hand on the handle. Never hold the chainsaw in the air with one hand while pulling on the starting rope with the other.

Keep both hands on the chainsaw when cutting; always operate the saw below shoulder height; only operate a chainsaw up in a tree when you’ve received special training to do so, and engage the chain brake when starting and walking with the saw.

 Many chainsaw injuries take place when the moving chain comes into contact with the operator, with kickback being the most common cause.

Kickback takes place when the upper tip of the guide bar touches an object or the chain gets pinched.

This rapidly and uncontrollably throws the saw up and back towards the operator.

Kickback can cause severe lacerations to the upper body, neck or face, and even death.

Remember to maintain a stiff left elbow to lessen the chance of the saw striking you in a kickback. When cutting logs from a tree, stand to the left side of the chain so any kickback will go over your shoulder.

 Hand and arm injuries comprise 41 percent of total chainsaw injuries; legs, 39 percent; head and face injuries, 11 percent; feet, six percent, and upper body, three percent.

Wear sturdy, snug-fitting clothing that gives you complete freedom of movement. Avoid loose things that may catch in the moving chain including sleeve and pants cuffs, unfastened long hair or jewelry.

Never go out alone to operate a chainsaw. Another person can share the cutting tasks to prevent fatigue – a major cause of injuries in the woods – or go for help should an accident occur. Always take a first aid kit and keep it handy.

Before you begin to cut the tree, check for hazards such as dead limbs and tops, adjacent dead trees, vines and wind strength; identify the tree’s bad side (greater lean and weight) – that is where you want to begin cutting; finish cutting on the tree’s good side; plan an escape route at least 45 degrees away from the cutting line, and remove any small trees or debris that may deter a fast escape.

Prior to felling, cut a notch on the bad side and back-cut toward the center of the notch on the good side.  This will leave hinge wood to slightly delay the tree falling and give you time to escape. Always watch the tree as it falls.

Phase I Board meeting Jan. 3

The Madison County Phase I Board will meet on Thursday, Jan. 3, at 6 p.m. at the Madison County Extension Office. This meeting is open to the public.

Educational programs of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin.