State Health Department Urges Caution Using Chain Saws in Storm Cleanup

Cleaning up in the aftermath of a storm is a dangerous job

ALBANY, N.Y. (Dec.19, 2008) — State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines M.D., today urged New Yorkers to use caution in cleaning up after last week's ice storm, especially since today's forecast of additional snow may cause more tree damage. The recent ice storm that devastated much of the state left many New Yorkers with downed and damaged trees on their properties to clean up.

Today's snowstorm, combined with the recent ice storm, may present health and safety concerns. "Before using a chain saw to clear downed tree limbs, know how to safeguard against injury. Always operate, adjust, and maintain the saw according to manufacturer's instructions," Commissioner Daines said.

There were 21 fatal injuries associated with cutting and pruning trees reported in New York during the past five years. Most people lack the experience and proper equipment to perform tree and branch removal safely and should consider hiring a professional tree service company to do this work.

Make sure the blade is properly sharpened and lubricated. Wear appropriate protective equipment including hard hat, safety glasses, hearing protection, heavy work gloves, cut-resistant leg-wear and boots which cover the ankle. Always cut at waist level or below. Avoid contact with power lines and keep bystanders at a safe distance. Most injuries occur on the left thigh and the left arm or back of the left hand. Gloves, goggles, leg and foot protection can provide extra protection.

Safety is the first consideration for homeowners who decide to do their own tree cleanup with a chainsaw. Professional tree services and loggers follow strict safety rules when operating and maintaining chainsaws. While chainsaws are efficient and effective portable power tools for tree cutting, they can also be the most dangerous power tool if not used properly.

Pruning and removing limbs from storm-damaged trees is not the same thing as cutting firewood from a tree already on the ground. Branches and trees that are twisted and bent are usually under tremendous pressure that may be undetectable to the untrained eye. When cut with a chainsaw, these branches may spring back or fly out in a way that can cause serious injury or death to someone nearby.

Chainsaw safety advice

  • Know the safety features of a chainsaw and always check before each use to be sure the features are working properly.
  • Fuel the saw in an open area at least 10 feet from an ignition source. Start your saw at least 10 feet from the fuel container.
  • Start your saw on level ground or an area where you are otherwise firmly supported. If your saw has a chain brake, make sure it is on when your start the saw.
  • Keep both hands on the saw and your footing secure at all times.
  • Clear the area of anything that would block your path if you need to get away from branches.
  • Avoid cutting overhead.
  • Stay clear of electrical and power lines.