Each year, about 40,000 people are injured in chainsaw-related accidents. Winter can be an especially dangerous time for wood-cutting activities, since frozen wood is harder to cut and outdoor surfaces are often covered in slick ice and heavy snow. So, what do you need to remember the next time you plan a day of cold-weather tree-trimming? Below, we outline a checklist of winter chainsaw safety tips to help you prepare.
Winter Chainsaw Safety Tip #1 – Do Your Research
When taking on a new project, it is important to choose a chainsaw that is well-suited for the job. Using a chainsaw that is too small, too large, insufficient in power, or even too powerful for the task at hand could cause complications during use, resulting in injury. Also be sure to thoroughly read all instruction and safety manuals to ensure that you are familiar with your chainsaw and know how to switch it off at a moment’s notice in case of emergency.
Winter Chainsaw Safety Tip #2 – Prepare Your Chainsaw
Regular maintenance and cleaning can greatly enhance chainsaw performance and in turn, increase safety during operation. Pay careful attention to clean any build-up from the sprockets and chain grooves, replace spark plugs, and clean the air filter (for more tips on small engine equipment maintenance, click here).
When mixing fuel, stick to small batches, as fuel can go bad quickly in cold weather. Additionally, be sure to sharpen your blades, and decrease your chain’s filing angle by five degrees to help with handling frozen wood. Using a carbide-tipped chain can also make winter cutting tasks easier, as they are designed for heavy-duty jobs and stay sharp longer than typical chains.
Winter Chainsaw Safety Tip #3 – Wear Protective Clothing
As with any outdoor work activity, always wear weather-appropriate clothing and the correct protective gear for the job. Warm, moisture-resistant layers can increase comfort in frigid weather and help protect against cutting or splintering mishaps that could occur while operating your chainsaw. It is also important to shield yourself from flying wood shards and loud noise, so invest in a good pair of safety glasses, ear plugs, and a hard hat or helmet for overall protection. Finish off your ensemble with a pair of protective gloves, a sturdy pair of boots, and well-fitting chainsaw chaps. The more protection, the better, since chainsaw accidents can be severe and are easier to prevent than repair.
Winter Chainsaw Safety Tip #4 – Prepare Your Environment
Once you’re ready to get to work, round up a friend to serve as your assistant for the day (you should always have a helper nearby when operating your chainsaw, especially if you’re felling trees). Make sure your colleague is also outfitted in protective clothing, and standing at least 30 feet away from all chainsaw activity (or 150 feet away if you are felling). Next, remove as much snow as possible from tree branches and from around the trunk before engaging your chainsaw. This will help to increase visibility and reduce the likelihood of having snow-heavy branches fall on top of you.
Winter Chainsaw Safety Tip #5 – Operate With Care
Some chainsaws are equipped with a “winter” switch function for better cold-weather control—turn that on if you have it. Using both hands, operate your chainsaw according to the instruction manual (see Winter Chainsaw Safety Tip #1 above), taking care to cut at waist level or lower. Never cut a tree or limb while another person is holding it, and remain vigilant of your surroundings to avoid slipping on slick surfaces or being hit by flying ice.
To further improve chainsaw performance, try to keep condensation from forming inside of your fuel tank. Preventative measures include clearing snow from around the tank opening and avoiding dramatic temperature changes (caused by traveling between cold-weather areas and warm, indoor areas). These efforts will help prolong the life of your fuel mix and in turn, keep your chainsaw working efficiently for longer periods of time.
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