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Focus on safety when tackling outdoor projects

By RICHARD SHAW
Staff reporter


Using chain saws properly and donning protective equipment are key to safe operation of the equipment. Most injuries and fatalities happen to individuals who have at least one year's experience with the machine, pointing to a familiarity of use which occurs when operators become lax about safety practices.

Warming temperatures are prompting Carbon County residents to think about starting to clean up yards even though spring will not arrive for a more than a week.

One of the biggest jobs property owners face is trimming or felling trees. Trees filled with leaves and foliage that disguised dead limbs in the fall are bare and the imperfections show.

In addition, winter often kills diseased or dead trees.

Some residents hire other professionals to trim or cut down dead foliage, while others prefer to personnally complete the task. And the most popular tool to do the chore is the power chain saw.

Chain saws can be challenging mechanical devices to operate, even for individuals experienced with using power appliances and tools.

Most importantly are the safety rules that should be observed when operating the machines.

There are dozens of ways people can be seriously injured or killed when cutting branches off trees or when felling a trunk.

People armed with a little knowledge frequently belive that they can successfully and safely cut down the tall trees, but the work is not as simple as it appears.

One recent analysis of chain saw accidents revealed that 70 percent of the people injured had more than one year's experience.

In fact, professional tree cutters get killed every year because they fail to follow the rules and take shortcuts.

To avoid injuries or possible death, Carbon County residents should practice safe methods while clearing, thinning, cutting firewood and cleaning up trees downed by a storm.

People planning on using the tools should read, understand and follow the safety procedures outlined in the operator's manual.

Before tackling the job, they should observe an experienced operator in action and attempt small jobs for a period of time.

One crucial safety aspect in using a chain saw is securing the proper personal protective gear.

Many people begin cutting wood with no gloves or goggles, according to safety officials. A few individuals even try to do the task in shorts and athletic shoes.

Manufacturers and public safety agencies have developed a list of equipment people should obtain before beginning landscaping projects.

The list includes:

•A hard hat to protect the operator's head from falling limbs or branches.

If the recommended head gear is not available, residents should at least wear a cap or hat.

•Safety glasses or goggles to prevent injury from flying wood chips. Wear these when splitting wood as well.

•Ear muffs or plugs to prevent permanent injury may be a smart purchase for residents to make.

Ear muffs or plugs are especially neefed if the machine is used for hours at a time. Noise from gas-powered chain saws can exceed 100 decibels.

•Lightweight gloves, preferably leather, to protect hands from abrasions and cuts.

•Heavy work boots or shoes with high tops and steel toes.

•Snug-fitting clothing free of ragged edges that covers the arms and legs.

Loose clothing can snag on limbs or get caught in the saw.

Saw should be kept in good condition and proper chain tension should be maintained. The lower chain span should just touch the bottom bar rails. Raise up on the bar tip while tightening the fasteners.

Follow manufacturer's maintenance recommendations and, before starting the saw, fill the gasoline tank, oil and chain lube reservoir.

Fire safety practices are necessary when refueling.

Refuel in an open area after the saw has cooled, at least 10 feet away from where the equipment will be restarted and at least 20 feet away from fires or cigarettes.

Use proper funnels and spouts to prevent spills. Wipe off spilled fuel before cranking the saw and follow the owners manual on the type of oil and the mixture level.

Start the saw on the ground or a solid object before tackling a chore.

The biggest job local residents will likely tackle will be felling a full-sized tree. In many cases, branches must be removed before the tree topples.

Never climb the tree, but use a ladder to access the branches. Cut branches on the opposite side of the tree so the limbs will not hit the ladder. Tie a rope to larger branches and put tension to move toward the direction of desired fall.

When cutting down a tree or a large trunk, note the wind direction and the way the branches are leaning. Try to fell the tree in the leaning direction when the wind is not blowing against it.

Clear a safe work area around the base of the tree. Remove limbs, underbrush and obstructions. Be sure to have several open pathways as escape routes when the trees begin to fall.

Be sure the clearance in the intended direction is adequate for the tree to fall completely to the ground.

A lodged tree is dangerous. Once hung up it can fall unpredictably or cause other trees to snap back, injuring or killing someone.

For trees eight inches or less in diameter, one cut clear through the trunk will usually fell it.

On larger trees, notch or undercut at least one-third of the trunk diameter on the fall side.

Make the lower cut of the notch first to prevent the loose wedge of wood from pinching or bending the chain. Then make a felling or backcut on the opposite side of the trunk two inches above and parallel to the horizontal cut in the notch.

The tree should begin to fall when the cut is several inches from the inner face of the notch.

Leave a narrow uncut portion to serve as a hinge for controlling the fall of the tree.

If the saw starts to bind in a closing cut, remove the blade as soon as possible.

If it is too late to remove the blade, shut off the motor and do not struggle with saw.

Wedges can be used to remove bound saws and determine how trees will fall.

Once the tree begins to fall, the path of the butt is almost unpredictable. Being struck by the butt, rebounding limbs or broken tops is the second most common cause of death to people cutting timber.

Once the tree is down, start limbing at the base of the trunk.

The first limbs cut should be on top of the trunk. Cut as far up the top side of the trunk as possible before removing the limbs resting on the ground.

On many trees, it is easier and safer to use an axe or a hatchet. Thick branches can be cut with a chain, tree or pruning saw.

Stand on the opposite side of the trunk from the limb being cut. The trunk provides a barrier between the operator and saw and helps prevent contact with the chain.

Never hold a running saw with one hand and clear limbs with the other.

Be aware that the tree may sag or roll as a new branch is cut. The likelihood of the tree rolling increases as more branches are removed.

Be alert for any trunk movement and be ready to jump away if necessary.

All the branches should be cleared away to prevent trips or falls when the operator bucks or cuts the trunk into log.

Hazards while bucking a tree are many, but the most common is saw back lash or the logs rolling and causing injuries.

Operators should always be sure of footing. The practice allows for quick movement should a large log move.

Raise and block the trunk when possible to prevent rolling.

Work on the uphill side of a log when possible.

Bucking procedures differ depending on how the log is supported. When the log is flat on the ground, cut from top, then roll it over and cut it through from the opposite side.

When the log is supported on one end, cut one-third of the diameter from the underside to avoid pinching and splintering, then cut the remaining two-thirds of the diameter from the top.

On a log supported at both ends, make the first cut through the top one-third of the diameter. The remaining wood is then cut upward from the bottom.

When cutting firewood lengths, several methods can be used. One way is to make cuts about three-fourths of the way through for each length of firewood.

By not cutting completely through, several lengths stay together and the log remains rigid.

After all cuts are made from one side, roll the log and complete. Avoid running the chain saw blade into the dirt. Nothing dulls a blade quicker than digging a hole with it.





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