Logging experts demonstrate chain saw safety

Published 10:30 am Thursday, May 19, 2022

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Ask logger Meade Stull if he has a chain saw story, and he pulls off his hat. A scar spanning his hairline says it all.

The split-second accident happened 20 years ago — when he used a chain saw to cut a branch he didn’t realize was under stress. The limb kicked back, causing injury so severe that he needed reconstructive surgery.

Stull is among the 36,000 people treated in U.S. emergency departments annually for chainsaw-related injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Virginia Farm Bureau leaders want to see fewer of those accidents. About 50 farmers, first responders, loggers and landowners gathered April 29 for a chain saw safety demonstration organized by Alleghany County Farm Bureau at Dabney S. Lancaster Community College’s Forestry & Agriculture Department facilities. Forestry professionals wore recommended personal protective equipment as they demonstrated the proper handling, maintenance and use of chainsaws, and shared stories of close calls.

“You can acquire a chain saw anywhere, and there is a safety manual, but it doesn’t automatically come with a lot of awareness about how to safely operate it,” said John Quantz, Alleghany Farm Bureau president. “This was recognized as a potential need as we’ve been looking for programs to help our producer members and the community.”

Chain saw novices like beef cattle farmer Kathy Elmore paid close attention.

“We have a farm and got a small chain saw, and I wanted to learn how to use it,” she said.

A tree-cutting safety briefing and demonstration was presented by Lee Brown of High Country Logging LLC., who taught attendees how to safely hold, start, wield and sharpen a saw. Whether cutting firewood or clearing a forest, he said, always use both hands; wear eye, head, ear and body protection; start the saw on a firm support and never drop start; and keep the teeth sharp.

Scott Reigel, DSLCC’s Forest Management Technology Department head, said PPE like reinforced chaps, helmets, glasses and ear protection can be purchased at most outdoor retailers. Quality gear is not cheap.

“But I can tell you, stitches are even more expensive,” added adjunct instructor Trevor Saville.

DSLCC offers the state’s only two-year forestry management technology degree. Safety curriculum is central to training the next generation of foresters — who will inherit a hazardous profession.

A Penn State study reports logging is the nation’s most dangerous occupation, with fatal injuries more than 30 times the rate for all U.S. workers. Tree-care workers also encounter hazards at higher rates. For them, the event was a safety refresher.

Visit bit.ly/3sbJfpk to see a chain saw safety tip sheet.