Tips for Chainsaw Safety

Winter storms can really make a mess, and one of the preferred tools for storm clean-up is the chainsaw. Here is some expert advice on wielding these beasts safely.

We all know that the chainsaw is dangerous. One look at these things hints at the danger, but it’s the sound of a chainsaw that confirms it. The un-muffled, two-stroke wail of a chainsaw is an unmistakable sound. It’s practically synonymous with danger.

Despite this, the mis-use of these tools causes thousands of trips to emergency rooms every year. That’s why the people who sell Husqvarna chain-saws put together the following eight essential tips for maintaining the highest degree of safety when clearing debris:

  1. Safety First. Get adequate training before a crisis strikes. Check with your local Husqvarna dealer for course recommendations, and supplement training by viewing online videos. And don’t forget to thoroughly read the manufacturer’s owner’s manual.
  2. Be Prepared. Don’t use a chainsaw without a complete regimen of personal protective equipment (PPE). Essential elements include a helmet, a visor and protective glasses to ward off scratches and sawdust spray, earmuffs to protect against harmful loud noises, chaps, work gloves and protective boots. Dante Terzigni, of Do-Cut Sales and Service in Youngstown, Ohio, says it’s important to be prepared before the storm: “You aren’t going to go buy safety equipment right after a storm if you can’t get out of your driveway.”
  3. Map It Out. Before you begin, assess the full scope of damage. Create a plan for how to prioritize the work and how to team-up with others to get it done. According to Mike Hope, a longtime Husqvarna user and certified arborist from Cape Cod, Mass., “Carefully walk the property and look for downed power lines. NEVER cut a tree that is laying on or touching a power line.”
  4. Know Your Limitations. Don’t volunteer for a job you’re unprepared to handle. There will be plenty of work to go around, so tackle tasks you can comfortably and safely undertake. Plus, take plenty of breaks and stay hydrated; most mistakes occur when you’re tired.
  5. Buddy Up. No one should trim trees alone, given the immense risk of error or injury. Pair up with another volunteer, but stay a safe distance apart when your chainsaws are in use.
  6. A Good Start. A chainsaw is best started on flat ground, with the chain brake engaged. Don’t “cut” corners during intense, fast-paced clean-up efforts.
  7. The Right Cut. Relieving tension from a branch or tree limb requires careful pruning. Many types of cuts can be used, depending on the situation – all the more reason to get chainsaw training before you need it!
  8. Pamper Your Equipment. Ongoing maintenance is critical, since you’ll be pushing your chainsaw hard. Pause often to clean filters and tighten chains. “It’s wise to have extra chains and files to sharpen them,” observed Bill Johnson, Coastal Equipment Rentals, Cape Cod, Mass. “Many downed trees are in the dirt and chains can dull quickly.”

Most of this advice applies even if you don’t own a Husqvarna. For instance, dealers of other makes of chainsaw offer advice and training as well.

The last three tips are particularly universal ones, and should be underlined. A dull chainsaw blade is a very dangerous thing; so is an improper cutting angle. Combine the two and these individual dangers are magnified.

And we would double-down on this good advice about starting the saw on flat ground every time. As the Husqvarna team points out, a frantic day of clearing – with a lot of starting and stopping the saw — can cause us to lose focus on safety, and cut corners.

But all it takes is that one slip-up to cause great injury. That’s why it’s important to follow proper safety procedures each time.

Stay safe this season!

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