Safe Tree Felling

Using the right equipment and techniques are critical elements to safe tree felling.

| September/October 2016

Chainsaws are remarkable tools. In the right hands, they are capable of cutting trees for clearing land, producing lumber or firewood, and even rough (very rough) construction framing. Almost every country-dwelling homesteader has at least one, and most of us are proud of our mastery over the tool. But even in the hands of trained professionals, they are respected for their dangerous side which, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, puts logging as the most hazardous occupation.

Consider these sobering statistics compiled by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission:

• There were about 36,000 chainsaw-related hospital emergency room visits in 2013.
• The average chainsaw injury requires 110 stitches, with an average cost of $12,000 in medical bills.
• Medical costs for chainsaw accidents average around $350 million per year.
• According to OSHA, in 2012, 243 workers died while engaging in tree trimming and clearing activities.  

If that is not enough to get your attention, search YouTube for “chainsaw accident” – but only if you have the stomach for it.

There are other ways chainsaws can hurt you. The blade can throw wood chips into your eye at over 60 miles per hour. Branches can spring back and snap bones, and falling or rolling logs weighing over 1,000 pounds have incredible crushing force. Hearing loss and tinnitus (constant ringing in the ears) from the 110-decibel scream of the engine is almost universal among the old-time loggers.

The tree is another hazard. Dead branches – called “widow-makers” – can come crashing down at any time with the slightest gust of wind, or even the vibration of the chainsaw. Falling trees can kick back, roll, or fall in an unintended direction. It may hit a dead snag on the way down, or hang up in another tree, leaving you with the dangerous task of getting it the rest of the way down. So let’s take a look at what it takes to safely cut down, “fell,” a tree.

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