Take the Time to Operate Your Chainsaw Safely
by Erika Scott
Though the sun is out and summer is in full swing, the thought of the next heating season is never far off. Many of us use firewood to heat our home, and plenty of folks fell trees and split their own firewood. If you cut your own firewood for personal use or are a logger by trade, consider your routine – are you working in the safest way possible?
While the process of harvesting and processing wood is quite rewarding, it can also pose real danger. It is well known that logging has one of the highest fatality rates of any industry, second only to commercial fishing. Serious injuries to homeowners are also well documented.
With the proper personal protective equipment, a well-maintained saw, and some knowledge, working in the woods can be made much safer. Do you wear chaps when you use the chainsaw? If the answer is no, ask yourself ‘why’? Trust me; the cost of chainsaw chaps is much less than a trip to the hospital!
If you are looking for a new pair, make sure they have a ‘UL’ (Underwriter’s Laboratories) certification label. Chaps come in many lengths and styles; the ideal fit will extend to the top of the foot (they should graze where the tie on a sneaker would be). Wrap chaps provide better protection than apron
chaps, as they cover the back of the calf. Whatever style you have or decide on, make sure to wear them. Once they get damaged, they should be replaced, because they don’t offer the same protection the second time there is an ‘oops!’.
Protecting your head is also a top priority; the easiest way to do this is with a logging helmet, which combines hearing, eye and head protection. Being struck with even a small branch on an uncovered head will have you seeing stars, or far worse. Head protection should bear the ANSI Z89.1 stamp. A face shield or safety glasses will prevent wood chips from entering the eye, and ear muffs protect your hearing from the high decibel level (about 110 dB) of the chainsaw. Sturdy boots should be worn (ideally with steel toes), and gloves can help with protecting the hands.
For more information on NYCAMH visit www.nycamh.org, for GOL visit www.gameoflogging.com. A program of Bassett Healthcare, NYCAMH is enhancing agricultural and rural health by preventing and treating occupational injury and illness.
Personal protective equipment is only one piece of the puzzle. Training improves your personal safety, but it also enhances your productivity. Work smarter, not harder. NYCAMH offers access to two types of chainsaw safety trainings, classroom trainings offered by an experienced forester and NYCAMH consultant, and a limited number of reduced-cost, hands-on, Game of Logging (GOL) safety trainings. Even if you have been using a chainsaw for years, there is always something new to learn. Small tips and tricks make working in the woods safer and more efficient.
If you are interested in a classroom training session, contact NYCAMH at (800) 343-7527 and ask for the outreach department. In addition, thanks to the New York State Department of Health, a limited number of Game of Logging courses will be offered next year, and information on these courses will be forthcoming. These are offered at minimal cost ($25) to farmers, rural employers and landowners. Call NYCAMH at (800) 343-7527 to learn more about GOL, and to be added to the course waitlist. Be advised, GOL classes are limited to ten participants each, and while we try to accommodate everyone, you may not get your first choice of training if the demand is high.