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Handle Chain Saws With Extra Caution
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Cutting firewood can be a cost-effective way to warm homes in the winter, but never compromise safety in an attempt to cut home heating bills.
Dannie Reed, Choctaw County extension agent, said using chain saws is a hazardous and sometimes deadly activity. Chain saw accidents are a leading cause of emergency room visits, and some result in fatalities in Mississippi.
"Chain saws are probably the most dangerous of the portable power tools since it has more horsepower and exposed cutting blade than most anything else you can use," Reed said.
Professionals commonly are trained in how to use chain saws by insurance safety representatives or dealers. Other chain saw users need to learn safety measures as well.
"Follow the safety directions given with the operator's manual of the chain saw," Reed said. "Use all the recommended safety equipment such as safety chaps, an approved bump cap with face chip shield, heavy boots with toe protection and hearing protection from saw noise."
Herb Willcutt, extension safety specialist at Mississippi State University, said well-maintained, sharp equipment, frequent rest breaks and operator knowledge help prevent many accidents.
The first step in safe chain saw use is to hold the chain saw down with a hand and a foot while it is being cranked.
Most chain saw injuries are caused by cutting towards the body or by kickbacks. A chain saw kicks back when the blade suddenly jerks toward the operator. This can occur if the blade binds in deep cuts or when cutting with the tip of the saw.
Safety equipment is available to prevent kickback injuries. These include tip guards, kickback resistant chains and a chain brake. There is also protective wire mesh clothing such as chaps.
"Many people are injured when their legs are near the cut," Reed said. "To avoid injury, always cut away from the body. Never walk or climb with a running saw since a fall may cause you to grip the throttle and cause severe cuts."
Store chain saw fuel in an approved gasoline container. Never refuel hot chain saws as a hot muffler can ignite a fire.
Felling trees has its own set of dangers. Firewood seekers should learn how to safely fell and cut up trees.
"The cardinal rule is plan where you want the tree to fall and your path of escape if it falls differently from what you intended," Willcutt said. "Also, look for overhead obstacles like power lines and television antennas."
When felling a tree, determine which way it naturally leans and never attempt to make it fall the opposite direction. Notch the tree on the side facing the direction the tree is to fall. The inside of the notch should be perpendicular to the path of the fall.
Next, cut parallel to the notch on the opposite side of the tree. Wedges are used at times to prevent the tree from pinching the chain saw blade. When the tree begins to fall, move the saw and get out of the way.
"Moving clouds can make it difficult to determine if the tree is falling," Willcutt said. "To prevent dangerous confusion, it is better to have someone watching for you to indicate when the tree is going to fall."
The lookout should be near the base of the tree and out of the intended direction the tree will fall.
"If a tree lodges or does not fall, do not try to keep cutting," Reed said. "Get experienced help or use larger equipment to help remove the tree properly without risking lives."
Contact the local county extension office for more information on safety measures and felling trees.