Forestry specialist offers chainsaw safety reminders
It is that time of year when people fire up their chainsaws and get downed limbs and trees cleaned up and stockpile firewood.
While cleanup is necessary, Craig McKinley, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension forestry specialist, urges everyone to take appropriate safety precautions.
"Safety is the name of the game when trying to clean up your property," he said. "First, those operating chainsaws should be wearing the proper equipment and have read the instruction manual."
Helmets help protect saw operators from falling limbs, and ear plugs or ear muffs should be worn to reduce exposure to the 120-decibel noises produced. Exposure to that level of noise for a long time can not only cause operator fatigue, but also permanent hearing loss.
Eye protection, in the form of safety goggles or glasses, and a face screen will help prevent injury from small particles, such as wood chips. Tight but flexible clothing is good for chainsaw operators, but saw chaps are recommended. Using steel toe boots also should be considered.
After reading the operation manual and ensuring that the chain is sharp and the chain tension is correct, it is time to start cutting. However, even when a chainsaw is operated correctly and safety gear is on, the job is still dangerous.
"Almost 55 percent of accidents involving chainsaws take place during the felling and bucking," McKinley said. "Thus, tree felling and subsequent sawing should never be attempted by untrained individuals or when working alone."
Operators should take note of loose branches above and be mindful of which way larger pieces of wood will fall. Trees blown down by storms also may be under tension, and can become even more dangerous as sawcuts are made and tension is released.
"While removing debris or cutting firewood must be done, preventing an accident is the most important job at hand," he said.