7 chainsaw safety tips for safe storm cleanup
Phyllis, April 2015
Above image courtesy of Victa Australia is a land of extreme weather events – as witnessed by the recent super storms to hit the east coast. Unfortunately, the problems don’t end when the troublesome weather pattern moves on. In fact, that’s when a whole new set of problems begin – in the form of the massive clean-up. But experts warn against taking a casual approach to post-storm clean-ups. Leading Australian garden care expert Victa advises that chainsaw owners should take key precautions if attempting to clear debris themselves. With serious injury a possible consequence of incorrect chainsaw use, they recommend the following safety tips when either limbing (removing branches from a downed tree) or bucking (cutting the trunk of a downed tree to length). It’s vital to follow these tips and also refer to your operator’s manual, otherwise serious injury could occur.
- Protective equipment: Always opt for sturdy boots, long pants, long-sleeve shirt, gloves, ear and eye protection, and Kevlar chainsaw chaps. Hard hats are also a great idea, especially in a storm-ravaged environment.
- Pre-cut checklist: Before you even start the chainsaw, make sure everything is in working order. Undertake a quick check of the controls, handles, bar, chain sharpness and tension. For petrol powered chainsaws, don’t forget to fill both the petrol and bar oil reservoirs. Running out of bar oil will cause friction that could damage your saw.
- Handling the saw: Maintain a solid footing and watch out for dangerous tripping hazards. Also maintain a good balance by not overreaching with the saw or assuming an uncomfortable body position while cutting. Ensure that your left hand (including your thumb) is firmly positioned around the front handle for full control. Always stand to one side of the saw – never directly behind it. Start all cuts with a full throttle before touching the wood, and never cut above shoulder height.
- Chain tension: Re-check it after every hour of use and adjust if necessary. Due to stretching, new chains need to be checked after 20 minutes.
- Monitoring the tip: Be aware of the tip position at all times and never engage the saw with the upper corner of the bar. This is essential for guarding against kickback, which occurs when the top corner of the bar tip hits something hard or becomes pinched. In these instances, the energy of the saw forces the bar up and towards the operator with great speed and power.
- Moving around: It’s crucial that you don’t move around with the chainsaw running. In the event you trip or stumble, the engine can accelerate and start the chain spinning.
- Be aware of others: Instruct others to never blindly approach you while you’re operating the chainsaw – and never cut trees/branches alone. It’s also integral that bystanders and animals are a minimum of 20 metres from the hazard zone (i.e. where you are using the chainsaw). If an accident occurs, you’ll need someone to administer first aid as well as summon medical assistance. That’s also the reason to keep your mobile phone with you while cutting.