Use caution when cutting trees, branches during yard cleanup
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Use caution when cutting trees, branches during yard cleanup

RICHMOND—Cutting trees and trimming branches are part of routine yard maintenance for many homeowners, but these tasks can be dangerous when using chainsaws.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports about 36,000 people are treated for chainsaw injuries annually, with approximately 250 fatalities. The average injury requires 110 stitches, and medical expenses from chainsaw wounds total over $350 million a year.

“Even if you’ve used a chainsaw a hundred times, don’t get complacent,” cautioned Dana Fisher, VFBF Farm Safety Advisory Committee chair. “Chainsaw accidents happen quickly, and just one moment of inattention can have devastating consequences.”

Safety experts warn that most chainsaw injuries are caused by kickbacks—the rapid, unexpected upward motion of the chainsaw’s guide bar. Kickbacks typically happen when the chainsaw’s top front portion is used for cutting, or if the chain is pinched between the material it’s cutting.

“Beware of the kickback area,” said Dan Neenan, a paramedic specialist and director of the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety, during a recent AgriSafe webinar on chainsaw safety. “Never cut with the tip of the saw, keep track of where the tip is, and keep the tip guard in place.”

He said chainsaw operators should always use proper techniques. Never drop-start a saw—pushing down with one hand while pulling up with the other—and never cut directly overhead or between your legs. Check for loose branches that could fall on you, hold the saw firmly with both hands, and keep proper footing for balance. Additionally, inspect the material you’re cutting for hazards like embedded nails.

“Don’t cut when you’re tired, and don’t cut when you’re frustrated,” Neenan added. “Stay alert at all times.”

Before operating a chainsaw, verify everything works according to the owner’s manual and manufacturer’s recommendations. Inspect the chain tension—the chain shouldn’t be too tight or loose—and sharpen chain teeth. Make sure the guards are serviceable, the chain brake controls work, and the muffler is in place to avoid burns.

“Add fuel before you start it for the first time,” Neenan noted. “If you need to add fuel after you’ve been operating it, that’s a good time to take a break … you always want to add fuel when the machine is cool.”

Also, while most injuries happen on the arms, hands and legs, all parts of the body should be protected with personal protective equipment. A helmet with a face shield, hearing protection, safety glasses, steel-toed boots, gloves and chainsaw-resistant arm and leg coverings can go a long way in reducing the severity of chainsaw injuries and protect against flying debris.

Media: Contact Fisher at 540-975-1849 or Neenan at 888-844-6322.

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