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Tuesday, 06 July 2010 13:17

Chainsaw safety

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chainsaw safetyThe chainsaw is the most dangerous tool on the farm, and its potential for damage to life and limb is underestimated every day.

Keep reminding yourself that the chain on a modern saw with it's murderous teeth travels at just over 100km/hr, so you don't have a hope of stopping it or lifting it out of the way before it has made a nice wide cut into you flesh and bone.  At this speed the chain can cut through a human limb in about a third of a second.

Here are some basic tips to survive as a chainsaw owner.
  • Don't procrastinate! Buy all the basic safety gear - leg protection, head, face and ear protection, footwear with steel toecaps, and thick leather gloves.
  • One of the above items is NOT enough - you need them all.  If you can't afford them, then you can't afford a chainsaw.
  • Leg protection is not armour. The fibres in the material blocks up the chain and stops it, to give you a split second to take your finger off the button.  You may still get an injury but it will be very much less than without protection.
  • Get a leather hand guard fitted to the handle on the saw.  This is valuable if the chain breaks and whips back.  Many chainsaws now have a device fitted to prevent this.
  • Keep checking that the chain brake is working.
  • When chain sawing, always try to work with a buddy or have someone within calling distance, especially when felling trees.
  • A team with chainsaws should not work closer than 3m apart when cutting up branches on a tree.
  • If you want to attract the attention of someone using a saw, don't go up and pat them on the back!  Attract their attention from afar or touch them with a long stick.  Accidents happen when startled operators turn round to face you with the saw still running - right in your direction!
  • Before starting to cut wood, clear yourself a safe foothold and get well set.
  • Do the cutting with the part of the bar nearest the engine and always ram the spikes into the wood for safety.
  • Avoid using the tip of the bar as this can bounce and 'kick back' coming up in a nice arc to cut your head and upper body.  Flying rotating saws have also cut off legs before they stopped.
  • Know where the cut off log or tree branch is most likely to fall, and be aware of where it could bounce when it hits the ground -and who is in the way.
  • Do not use a chainsaw above your head. This is a regular practice where people are hit by the falling saw, which has bucked out of their hands, or the branch they have just cut off.
  • Don't use a chainsaw up a ladder, which is generally far too unstable if you run into trouble.  A cut -off branch can so easily knock you off the ladder with a revving saw in your hands.
  • For serious tree felling, get professional help as these people will have had proper training and will be insured for any damage.  Check that they have before hiring them!
  • For any trees you may have that are overgrowing a public highway, get professional help as you will certainly have to pay for any damage or disruption.
  • No matter how much the kids want to see the action, keep them well out of the way and confined in a safe area.
  • Chainsaws also attract nosey neighbours - so keep an eye open for them appearing out of the blue, and warn them to keep back.
  • Helpers can be a menace.  They want to help you hold wood - with their hands and boots.  Make sure wood is held firmly without the need for human help.  An assistant should use a long piece of wood to hold wood and not their hands or feet.
  • Power lines are a very serious issue, as you will have to pay for any damage and power outage if any tree you fell or branches you trim hit the lines.  It's here where estimating height is critical, as so often those on the ground advise that things 'look' alright, and they are far from it.
  • The correct procedure is to contact the power company for advice, and if power needs to be cut off till the job is done, you will have to pay and it can be expensive. But compare this cost with a fine for negligence and possible killing yourself and helpers into the bargain.
  • Damage to fences also needs to be considered.  It's a frustrating job taking down fences, but at least a fence that has been dismantled in an organised way can be put up again easier than one flattened and broken by a fallen tree.
  • Know some basic first aid training, especially how to stop profuse bleeding, and have a first aid box with you at all times when sawing.
  • Carry a mobile phone with you when sawing.
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Dr Clive Dalton

Clive did a Ph.D. in sheep breeding at the University of North Wales at Bangor. After lecturing at Leeds University, he came to New Zealand to do research with MAF. Because of his communication skills, he moved to the Ruakura Agricultural Research Centre to be fully involved in interpreting science for practical application by farmers.

After 14 years he moved to teach at the Waikato Polytechnic where he taught young future farmers. He won the 1993 Landcorp Communicator of the Year award and the 1999 Sir Arthur Ward award for agricultural communication.