All it takes is a second for an accident to happen. Michael Collins gives a few pointers on how to prevent accidents when it comes to using a chainsaw.
Your environment – only fools rush in
Ireland has been hit with a lot of bad weather and freak storms in the past few months resulting in a lot of fallen trees. Between wind, rain and snow, all trees standing-power has been tested. When the land does dry up, there will be plenty of fences to be mended and timber to be cleared from the fields. In advance of this, we give a couple of safety reminders to people on how to do this safely if they are operating a chainsaw.
You are probably under pressure to get cows into a field or start ploughing but don’t rush into it. Just take a minute to assess the risks that you are exposing yourself and those around you to. You are no good to the farm or your family if you get injured by a falling limb or chainsaw that has kicked back on you. If a tree is falling at an angle, consult a professional before you start felling it – it may be a job for them. Don’t get yourself into a situation that you can’t readily make your escape from. If the tree falls the wrong way or the branch you are cutting falls back on top of you, consider this before the first cut is made. If you must fell a tree, don’t underestimate the weight of the canopy and the damage it could do to you, your property or people around you.
Is your chainsaw serviced and ready to work?
As pointed out in page 53, make sure your saw is serviced and ready for work if it hasn’t been used in a few months. If you’re unsure, have a trained professional give it the once-over. A worn chain can be lethal if it breaks, so if it’s worn-out it needs to be replaced. Not only will it be safer but it will also cut better saving you a lot of effort, fuel and time. A worn chain will also wear out your saw prematurely. A new chain will not only give you peace of mind; it is safer to use, will cut better and last longer.
Safety equipment is as important as the saw itself. Without it, it’s like driving a car without a safety belt. It is highly recommended that operators wear a safety helmet with face guard or shield, ear protection, safety jacket, gloves, trousers and boots. The helmet and face-shield will prevent sawdust and other objects hitting your head and face. The ear plugs will save your hearing. The jacket and trousers will all act as a safety barrier in the instance the chainsaw kicks back or slips during work as the material in them is designed to clog the chainsaw. Proper chainsaw gloves will greatly reduce vibration through your body, allowing you to maintain a tight grip on the saw. They’ll also keep your hands warm on cold days. Chainsaw boots serve a number of purposes. They protect your feet from falling objects, they protect your shins from the saw if it slips and comes into contact with you and, lastly, they give good grip in slippery conditions. When buying a new saw or getting your existing saw serviced ask your retailer about what options they have.
After you have all your PPE fitted and are ready to begin work, make sure you have a firm grip on the saw in both hands. Your thumbs should be firmly wrapped around the handles to have maximum control. Use the saw with a broad stance for stability and avoid overreaching. The risk is twofold, as you have less control the further the chainsaw is from you and you are at risk of back injury. Try to operate the chainsaw in as vertical a stance as possible and as close to your body as possible for maximum control. Above all else, avoid kickback. This happens when the bar jumps upwards and towards your head. Make sure the chainsaw has a fully functioning chain brake and use the underside of the bar to avoid using the “nose” of the bar. The firmer you grip the saw, the better control you have should the saw kick back.
Cutting at or near electricity wires
Ask yourself the question: do you know what can go wrong and are you sure it’s safe? Imagine cutting a tree and watching as it catches the electricity wires and brings them to the ground. There may be no “fireworks”, only a few sparks accompanied by a faint burning smell. Look around and you may see someone lying quite still on the ground. With electricity, it is too late when something happens, because the body is not able to deal with electricity; even very small amounts can result in electrocution.
Where tree-cutting accidents have happened, the mistake was in thinking that the tree was further away from the wires than was the actual case or that the tree ‘‘kicked’’ and fell in a different direction than planned. Hindsight showed that, sometimes, the wires needed to be disconnected, and in some cases dropped to the ground in order for the tree to be cut down, safely.
Because there is always the risk of the tree falling in the wrong direction, the advice is never to cut trees that are closer than the height of the tree overground plus 1m in every direction. Every tree is different and your cutting position may change but never lose sight of those wires and what could possibly happen. That might mean stopping work before cutting the next tree because it is more awkward that you thought.
Advice from ESB Networks
Accidents can be prevented. Always plan the work and think about what could go wrong when there are electricity wires and poles nearby. If there is even the slightest risk, contact the ESB Networks Emergency number on 1850 372 999 for help.
Always measure on the ground and ensure that you are well clear of overhead wires. Remember, this includes any other tools, equipment, ropes, chains, etc. Electricity will flow from the wire down through these and pass through your body into the ground. For a flow of electricity to occur, it does not even require actual contact; coming close is often enough because electricity jumps across the air.
Timber conducts electricity and there have been fatal accidents where the person cutting the tree was electrocuted because the timber he was cutting brushed off the wires and flowed through the person.