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SAFETY FIRST: Using a well-maintained chain saw with a sharp blade and well-oiled chain is one of the first steps to take to stay safe while cutting trees and limbs.

Safety in the woods saves lives

Take precautions to prevent injuries and fatalities when cutting down trees and trimming branches.

When Bill Field and his assistant, Yuan-Hsin Cheng, issue the farm fatalities report for the year, they list the type of accident for each person who died. Field, Purdue University Extension farm safety specialist, and Cheng issued the 2017 report just before the end of 2018. Two of the 36 deaths on Indiana farms in 2017 were due to being hit by falling limbs or a falling tree. One of the victims was 11 years old. No other details about the incidents were available.

In comparison, no one died in a grain bin or other confinement incident on an Indiana farm in 2017. Yet grain bin safety gets more attention than working around trees, working in the woods or using chain saws.

These weren’t the first deaths in Indiana related to falling trees, and they won’t be the last. Veteran logger Ron Martin was killed in a freak logging accident in Morgan County in October 2018. That information will appear in the 2018 Purdue report.

Chris Parker, Morgantown, a retired Morgan County Extension educator and timber producer, knew Martin well. “Everybody that knew him and had worked around him in the woods, including his children, said they had never seen anyone who took more precautions and treated chain saws and larger logging equipment with more respect than Ron did,” Parker says.

Martin apparently was injured when a tree he cut fell properly downhill but snagged another tree. A limb from a standing tree tore off and shot uphill, hitting him.

Safety precautions
Here are precautions Parker takes when he works in the woods:

Wear protective gear. Safety glasses and a helmet are critical when working with a chain saw and around wood, Parker says. Even so, as in dangerous sports such as racing, wearing a helmet doesn’t guarantee serious injury and trauma can’t happen — but it gives you better odds if they do.

Keep saws and equipment in good condition. Accidents are more likely to happen if saw blades are dull and not cutting correctly. Pinching of blades by limbs can occur when blades don’t cut through quickly and easily. Also keep chains well-oiled and sharp.

Anticipate what could happen. While cutting trees or limbs, stay aware of your surroundings. Determine which direction trees should fall before you begin cutting. Watch out for limbs that could snap back if cut and pressure is released.

Use extra caution when on a ladder. Add height into the equation with a chain saw, and the risk level increases. When trimming branches on a ladder, make sure the ladder is in good condition and positioned securely. Maintain solid footing on the ladder if you’re using it to reach a higher limb in a tree.

Work with or maintain contact with someone. If you’re injured while working in the woods, will someone else be there to help you get assistance? Does someone at least know where you are? Can you reach help by phone in an emergency? Is there adequate cell coverage where you are working? Could rescue workers reach you if you were injured and needed help? These are all questions to consider in advance. Do as much common-sense thinking and planning as you can before you begin working in the woods, Parker concludes.

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