(Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Local residents may be revving up their chainsaws to cut firewood for the cold months that lie ahead, but professional woodcutters are advising them to exercise safety precautions because one never knows what can happen.
Brad Greer of Brad's Pest Control and Tree Service has seen his fair share of chainsaw accidents through the years. He's seen someone's hand ripped open by a saw, and he has even seen a man's face cut right up the middle.
"He was doing an upper cut on a log, and he slipped and the saw cut right down his face," Greer explained.
More than 40,000 people require hospital treatment each year for chain-saw-related accidents, according to the U.S. Product Safety Commission.
"Be aware of what you're sawing," said Slusher Farm and Home Store Manager Larry Farrenburg. "If the saw kicks backward, it can really cut you up."
One of biggest dangers in operating a chain saw is kickback. Kickback occurs when the nose of the guide bar strikes another object. It can result in severe upper body, neck or facial injuries or death.
Tree cutting is a tougher job than people may realize, and sometimes things don't always go as planned, Greer said.
"Just down the road from my office, some boys recently took a tree down pulling it with a rope that broke and it took the whole front of the house down," Greer said. "It was about $20,000 in damage."
Greer isn't discouraging using ropes when cutting down large trees -- it's just the opposite -- but the ropes must be extremely thick to work properly, he said.
Another thing chainsaw users can do to ensure safety is use a saw that is the appropriate size for the job being pursued, said David Nichols, head of the lawn mower department at Orscheln Farm and Home Supply. A guide bar 8- to 14-inches long is good for trimming limbs, cutting small logs and felling small trees. Mid-weight saws with 14- to 20-inch guide bars are used to cut logs and for felling small-to-medium-diameter trees. Heavyweight saws with guide bars longer than 20 inches are for professional use and are not recommended for consumers.
One of the major things Greer sees as a professional tree trimmer is people using ladders to cut off a limb. "You should never cut off of a ladder," he said. "I've seen my own guys cutting limbs down and the limb or saw would kickback and knock the ladder out from under them."
Greer recommends using a ladder to get in the tree and have someone remove the ladder once positioned in the tree.
Some of the things Greer said chainsaw users should do is wear a hard hat, safety goggles and ear plugs. Other things they can do are wear gloves and appropriate high-top shoes.
Occasional saw operators as well as professionals should wear protective clothing. Protective chaps or leggings can prevent the running saw from coming in contact with your legs.
Do not operate the saw above shoulder level. Never drop-start a saw. Rather, place the saw on level ground with the bar and chain up out of the dirt. Be sure the saw is held firmly on the ground when pulling the starting rope, and always read the owner's manual, Nichols said.
"If the chainsaw isn't idling right, it can also be very hazardous," Greer said. "When you release the button, the chain should automatically stop. So if it doesn't stop, it needs to be fixed."
Greer also recommends inexperienced woodcutters to have someone who knows how to cut limbs and trees accompany them when they go to cut wood.
"You have to know how to cut the limbs," Greer said. "It's always safer to climb up a tree and put a rope in it in a directional fall. Watch out when the tree falls because it can hit another tree and roll. Sometimes they don't always go the way you want."