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Storm Clean-Up Injury Prevention & Chainsaw Safety

With Hurricane Irene passing over North Carolina this weekend, there will likely be downed trees and branches across the area. One of the biggest threats for injuries during clean up after any storm is from chainsaws.  

“Neither gas nor electric chainsaws are safe. Chainsaws are inherently dangerous tools, and people who do not have experience simply should not operate a chainsaw,” warns Osi Udekwu, MD, director, WakeMed Physician Practices – Trauma & Surgery. “Additionally, even people who are experienced with a chainsaws need to use common sense and extreme caution when operating this very dangerous equipment. Chainsaw lacerations are very difficult to treat because they do not cause clean cuts.”

Follow these steps from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to protect yourself and others. Remember, safety features cannot substitute for knowledge.

  • Get the dealer to demonstrate how to use the saw. Read the manual, learn all you can before using the saw – it’s a potential killer.
  • Wear snug-fitting protective equipment. That includes goggles, face and head mask, gloves, boots, ear protection, and heavy-duty clothing. Wear the equipment properly.
  • Carefully check the area for loose bark, broken limbs, or other damage before trees are felled or removed.
  • Cut safely; keep both hands on the handles. Keep the handles dry, clean and free of oil or fuel. Keep your eye on the blade and what you are cutting. Cut with the lower edge of the saw blade whenever possible. Cutting with the tip of the saw is inviting injury. Let the chainsaw do the work. Don’t try to force the saw.
  • Do not overreach or cut above shoulder height. It is very difficult to control the saw in awkward positions.
  • Do not operate a chainsaw in a tree or from a ladder unless you have been specifically trained and are equipped to do so.
  • When cutting a spring pole or other tree under stress, permit no one but the feller to be closer than two tree lengths when the stress is released
  • Do not operate a chainsaw when tired, if you have been drinking alcohol, or if you have been taking prescription medication or non-prescription drugs.
  • Do not smoke while refueling your saw. Move the chainsaw at least 10 feet away from the fueling point before starting the engine. Use gasoline powered chainsaws only in well ventilated areas
  • Sharpen the saw regularly.
  • Look for anti-kick nose guards, quick-stop brakes, and wraparound hand guards on any saw you use. Kickback accounts for almost a third of chain saw accidents.
  • Don’t wear yourself out. Stay alert. Take frequent breaks.

U.S. Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) is also an excellent resource for chainsaw safety information. 

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