Why are Chainsaw Safety Protocols Crucial During Storms?

Why are Chainsaw Safety Protocols Crucial During Storms?

As I look out my window at the downed trees and debris strewn across my yard from last night’s severe thunderstorm, I know it’s time to break out my trusty chainsaw. But before I start cutting, it’s important to remember that operating a chainsaw, especially during storm cleanup, requires focus and care. In this post, I’ll discuss why following key safety protocols is so critical when using chainsaws after storms.

First, I’ll overview some of the main hazards and risks to be aware of when cleanup work ramps up after storms. Chainsaws are inherently dangerous tools, but even more so when working around storm damage. Next, I’ll highlight the personal protective equipment (PPE) that’s essential for staying safe. Proper gear like helmets, chaps, gloves and more create a barrier against common chainsaw injuries.

I’ll also provide tips on chainsaw operation, maintenance and training. Knowing how to handle a chainsaw correctly and keep the blade sharp and oiled reduces accidents. And taking a class or reading reputable guides prevents mistakes. Lastly, I’ll touch on when it’s better to just hire a professional rather than tackling a major chainsaw job yourself.

There’s a lot of key information to cover, so let’s get started!

Why are chainsaw safety protocols crucial during storms?

Why are Chainsaw Safety Protocols Crucial During Storms?

 

Cleaning up downed trees, broken limbs and other debris is one of the biggest tasks following major storms. And chainsaws are often the quickest and most efficient tool for the job. However, statistics clearly show operating chainsaws to clear storm damage comes with increased risks and hazards.

Increased hazards during storm cleanup

Storm conditions create additional dangers when using chainsaws that you don’t encounter under normal circumstances:

  • Debris on the ground – Storms leave tons of branches, sticks and other debris all over the area. It’s easy to trip and fall on unstable ground, potentially into the running chainsaw blade.
  • Falling trees and limbs – High winds can leave partially broken branches and trees ready to fall at any moment. These “widowmakers” pose a serious threat of crushing injury.
  • Inclement weather – Cutting in wet conditions reduces traction and visibility, raising the chances of slipping and losing control of the saw.
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Higher risk of injury

On top of the added risks from storm damage, using chainsaws simply comes with a high likelihood of injury in general:

  • Over 36,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms for chainsaw related injuries every year in the U.S. alone.
  • Major storms lead to an increase in chainsaw injuries as more people undertake cleanup work.

Taking proper safety precautions is the only way to prevent becoming another statistic.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Personal protective equipment designed specifically for use with chainsaws provides a key barrier against common injuries. Safety gear like helmets, chaps, boots and more should be part of every chainsaw operator’s standard kit.

Head protection

  • Helmets – A heavy-duty protective helmet with a face shield guards against contact with falling tree limbs or debris. Approved hard hats offer similar protection.
  • Require everyone in the area, not just the saw operator, to wear head protection in case of unexpected hazards.

Eye and hearing protection

  • Ear plugs or muffs – Chainsaw noise can exceed 110 decibels, so ear protection is crucial for avoiding long-term hearing damage. Look for muffs or plugs rated for at least 20 decibels of noise reduction.
  • Safety goggles or glasses – Protect eyes from sawdust and debris with mesh goggles or impact-resistant glasses.

Protective clothing

The right protective outfit can save you from a trip to the emergency room:

  • Chainsaw chaps or pants – Made of cut-resistant fibers, chainsaw chaps cover the upper leg to stop the blade in the event of contact. Chainsaw pants offer even more coverage.
  • Gloves – Gloves minimize vibration while also protecting hands from cuts. Look for gloves rated for use with chainsaws.
  • Boots – Wear sturdy, nonslip boots with composite or steel toes for protection from falling logs or branches.

Chainsaw Operation and Maintenance

It takes proper preparation and technique to wield a chainsaw safely during storm cleanup. Here are some key operating guidelines:

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Proper preparation

  • Review the owner’s manual and follow all manufacturer recommendations for safe operation, fueling, chain tensioning and more.
  • Inspect the saw before each use and ensure the blade stops moving when the brake is engaged. Replace any damaged or worn parts.

Safe cutting techniques

  • Always keep the chain brake on when not actively making a cut to prevent accidental contact.
  • Plan cuts carefully to avoid “bar pinching” where the saw gets stuck in the wood.
  • Shut off the saw before setting it down. Carry it by the front handle with the guide bar pointing backwards.
  • Pay extra attention to your surroundings and look for hazards like power lines or fences hidden in debris piles.

Proper chainsaw maintenance also prevents accidents:

  • Regularly sharpen the chain and check that the chain tension is correct.
  • Make sure the chain is well-lubricated with bar oil to reduce friction.

Chainsaw Safety Training

One of the best ways to prevent accidents while operating a chainsaw during storm cleanup is by taking a training course or workshop focused on safety.

Importance of education

  • Chainsaw safety education teaches proper handling, protective gear, secure footing and more to reduce risk of injury.
  • Review multiple trusted sources like professional associations and government agencies for comprehensive guidelines.

Resources for chainsaw safety training

  • The OSHA fact sheet on working safely with chainsaws provides excellent safety rules.
  • Chainsaw manufacturers like Stihl and Husqvarna offer free tutorial videos on YouTube. 
  • Seek out professional instruction on chainsaw techniques, either online or in-person.

Even just investing an hour or two to build safety knowledge pays off by preventing mistakes.

When to Hire a Professional

As we’ve covered, using chainsaws during storm cleanup comes with a number of inherent hazards. While personal protective equipment, proper handling and training reduce risks, certain tree removal jobs are best left to qualified professionals.

Advanced chainsaw tasks

Be realistic about your skill level and don’t take on advanced chainsaw work like:

  • Major tree felling or topping large trees
  • Removing “hung” or partially uprooted trees
  • Situations requiring bucket trucks or other specialized equipment

Attempting hazardous do-it-yourself chainsaw work often ends badly.

Assessing personal capabilities

Before firing up the chainsaw, take time to honestly assess:

  • Your experience and comfort level in handling challenging tree cutting work
  • Your physical capability to safely perform the required tasks
  • Whether the risks outweigh the benefits of doing it yourself vs. hiring a professional crew
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It’s okay to acknowledge when a job is simply beyond your current skill or comfort level. Storm damage brings increased hazards that even experienced chainsaw operators may not be equipped to handle safely.

Conclusion

Operating a chainsaw to clear downed trees and limbs after major storms poses significant safety risks. But following personal safety protocols, utilizing protective gear, proper handling and maintenance, and getting training dramatically reduces the chance of injuries. Know your limitations and don’t hesitate to bring in a professional when a tree removal job is extremely hazardous or complex. Remember, staying safe is the top priority, so remain vigilant and don’t let your guard down even for routine cuts. With caution and care, you can successfully take on storm cleanup while avoiding becoming a chainsaw accident statistic.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most common chainsaw injuries?

The most frequent chainsaw injuries are lacerations and cuts to the hands, wrists, and legs from direct contact with the moving blade. Kickback from the saw can also cause blunt force trauma injuries.

How can I reduce the risk of chainsaw kickback?

Keep your left arm straight with your hand on the front handlebar when cutting to maintain control of the saw if kickback occurs. Also, don’t overreach or cut with the tip of the guide bar.

What are some basic chainsaw maintenance tips?

Regularly check the chain tension, sharpen the chain, replace the spark plugs, clean air filters, and use quality fuel and chain oil. Review the owner’s manual for model-specific maintenance recommendations.

How do I choose the right chainsaw for my needs?

Consider the size of wood you’ll be cutting, the features you need for safety/convenience, and your experience level. Talk to knowledgeable sales staff at chainsaw dealers for advice as well.

Are electric or battery-powered chainsaws safer than gas-powered ones?

Electric and battery-powered chainsaws eliminate some risks like fuel leaks. But any chainsaw requires safety precautions, training, and protective gear to operate safely.

What should I do if I encounter a chainsaw-related injury?

Immediately turn off the saw if it is still running and apply pressure to any significant bleeding. Administer first aid if you have the training, or call 911 for emergency assistance. Even small cuts can develop into a serious infection.

How can I safely transport a chainsaw?

Carry it with the engine stopped and the guide bar and chain pointed backward. Protect the chain with a scabbard or case and secure the saw against movement during transport. Only refuel after unloading from your vehicle.

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