Staying safe while trimming trees

Gloria Hafemeister
Now Media Group


A common job for farmers in winter is cutting away trees and limbs on line fences.

Limbs extending into fields can damage mufflers on tractors and scratch equipment. Underbrush left uncontrolled can creep into fields and ditches. Trees can shade crops on the sides of the field and stunt growth on the outside rows.

Removing lower limbs on trees on line fences and cutting out underbrush allows cover for wildlife while allowing the sun to hit the plants in the field.

Many farmers say they enjoy the winter tree-trimming task. They say they see it as good physical exercise and a break from the routine.

Still, like any other job on the farm, safety needs to be a priority.

The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission's latest released statistics indicate that 28,500 chainsaw-related injuries occurred in just one year with 36 percent of them involving legs and knees. Each year, there are numerous chainsaw accidents. Even veteran woodcutters can be victims of chainsaw kickback, a pinched bar, pull-in or push-back.

The Cooperative Extension Service recognizes that many farmers will be cutting wood during the winter months and has put together a list of safety considerations.

Most chainsaw injuries happen to the thigh when the operator is carrying a running saw. That's why chainsaw pants or chaps are important. When transporting the saw less than 10 feet, carry it by the front handle only. That way, if you trip, you won't accidentally accelerate the saw and cut your thigh. When moving more than 10 feet, switch off the engine.

Instruct everyone never to blindly approach the operator. The noise of the chainsaw and the concentration required may make the operator oblivious to someone coming up from behind to announce lunch.

Never cut alone. Even if you do not need an assistant, someone should be with you in case of an accident, and always carry a first-aid kit when you work in the woods. If someone is cut, cover the wound with a clean cloth and press hard to stop the flow of blood.

Keep your cell phone with you for emergencies.

Understand the bar's kickback zone and avoid getting into kickback situations. The kickback zone is the top half of the bar's tip. If the kickback zone comes in contact with something while the chain is moving, the saw will kick up and back toward you. That's why modern chainsaws are equipped with a chain brake designed to stop the chain if a kickback occurs.

Other important tips follow.

·Never cut above shoulder height.

·Work on the uphill side of trees so they'll roll away from you instead of over you.

·Use your chain brake. Whenever you aren't cutting, the brake should be in the locked, or 'On' position.

·Start all cuts with a full throttle before touching the wood.

·When fatigued, rest.

·Protect your back. When trying to move logs, use a lever or get help.

·Keep the chain sharp. A dull chain is unsafe, hard on both the bar and chain, and it overworks you and your saw.

·Wait until the saw cools before refueling, and use a funnel or spout to avoid spillage.

Protective clothing

Buy safety gear and wear it.

A hard hat is recommended, and goggles will protect your eyes against flying splinters and chips. Because a power saw is noisy, you should wear hearing protectors.

Leather gloves, hard-toe shoes and timber chaps would help protect limbs that might come into contact with the chain.

Do not wear slippery shoes or baggy clothing that could catch in the brush and cause you to fall; always watch your footing while working in the woods.