WELCOME TO THE SAW SAFETY TEAM
Saw Safety is a weekly newsletter of safety tips created by the UGA Saw Safety Team. This newsletter is for professionals in tree care and landscape, men and women who put a saw in wood. The letter offers one tip per week, is short and sweet, easy to share, and perfect for tailgate meetings. The goal of Saw Safety is to help companies and public sector entities create a culture of safety within their organizations and to encourage safety discussions. The steady stream of safety tips is punctuated with tips on sharpening, equipment, and other great resources. Illustrative, educational, and occasionally funny videos are embedded in the newsletter, when appropriate, and with full respect to copyrights. Events from the Georgia Arborist Association keeps readers up-to-date on trainings offered throughout the state.
In 2014 tree care and logging officially became the most dangerous work in the United States with a discouraging 78 deaths per year. Accidents abound when falling trees, chainsaws, and heights are combined. Arborists are not the only workers using chainsaws. Landscapers, golf course workers, city and county workers, and many others in the public and private sectors all commonly use chainsaws.
In the short time since it was created, subscription has grown steadily and the newsletter is widely recirculated. The Saw Safety newsletter is both deadly serious and lightly humorous. One reader commented, “We recently put together a safety training class for volunteers in our CERT Team (Community Emergency Response Team) and other volunteers. Used some of these videos to illustrate what stupidity really looks like.”
CATCH UP WITH US
You need a safe, clear escape route when felling a tree.
90% of the accidents during felling occur within 15 seconds after the tree moves and within 5 ft of the trunk. This is called the 90-15-5 rule.
Within the radius of the tree there are two high danger zones and two safer retreat routes. The first and largest high danger zone occupies a half circle from the center of the tree going outward in the direction of the fall. The second high danger zone is a quarter-circle area in the direction opposite the felling direction. You can be hurt in this area if the trunk jumps the stump, sets back, or the tree barber chairs.
Your escape route is in the 45-degree angles between these danger zones. Your retreat distance should be a minimum of 20 feet from the falling tree. Clear away all obstacles – such as debris or brush – that might slow you down or trip you up. You should be able to make your escape without turning your back on the falling tree.
Once you’ve identified your escape path, communicate your plan of work and retreat route to others on the work site. Discuss potential hazards; co-workers may have observed something you missed.
If the escape route is so important, why wait till the third step of the felling plan? The escape route is determined by the direction of tree fall. You will need to determine the height of the tree, identify hazards, measure lean, and assess your available equipment before you can fully determine the felling direction. If you change the felling direction for any reason, you need a new escape route.
This guy knows how to clean up his escape route.
Safety isn’t just a slogan, it’s a way of life.
First and foremost, make sure you have your PPE on. Starting at the top, a helmet, safety glasses, ear protection, gloves, chainsaw pants or chaps, and finally, boots, preferably with steel toes.
Now determine what equipment is needed to assist the tree in its intended path of fall.
You will need a well-maintained and properly running chainsaw that has an engine which can safely operate a bar length slightly longer than the diameter of the tree. The chain should be sharp and in good repair.
If the tree has back or side lean, a throw line and rope or mechanical advantage set may be needed to help pull the tree over.
Wedges are required equipment on-site any time a tree is being felled. You may need multiple wedges and an axe to drive them. Wedges are a great way to provide mechanical advantage to a tree.
It is a good practice to place a wedge in the back cut of any tree being felled, regardless of the direction of lean.
Move all the equipment you have determined you will need to the base of the trunk. If you don’t have all the equipment you need, then walk away and save the job for another day when you do have the equipment.
Help Fight Crime
If you are a landscape professional, know a landscape professional or employee a landscape company who has been a victim of theft, please share this with them.
These crimes are escalating – a local company was shot at and robbed at gunpoint. The Georgia Urban Ag Council is tracking these crimes to give data to local law enforcement. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-687-6949. Please help spread the word.
Safety isn’t a word, it’s an action plan.
Before you drop a tree, you need a plan. The Five Step Felling Plan can save your life.
The first step of the Felling Plan is called heights, hazards, and lean. You cannot drop a tree safely with out determining the height, assessing the tree and area for hazards, and measuring lean.
How tall is the tree?
There are many ways to determine the height of a tree. There are cell phone apps that can help you, and tools such as a clinometer or transit. The technique demonstrated here relies on free equipment almost always available at your work site: a stick!
The stick trick for measuring tree height is easy and fairly accurate. You need to find a stick as long as the distance between your hand, when your arm is outstretched, and your eye. (Measure with your safety glasses on! Don’t poke out your eye!) Break off the stick or just hold it in your hand at that length.
- Line your hand up with the spot on the tree where you will cut the notch.
- Rotate the stick 90 degrees without moving your head or dropping your arm.
- Then walk backwards, away from the tree, until the tip of the stick is even with the top of the tree.
- It is important to hold your hand and arm still and to move your eyes, and not your head when you are lining up the tree.
When the tip of the stick lines up with the tip of the tree, you should be standing where the tip of the tree will fall.
The height estimate must be adjusted for front and back lean and topography. If the tree leans forward the height will be over estimated and if it has back lean, this method will underestimate the height. Similarly if the tree is on a slope falling up hill the height estimate will be low and if it is falling downhill the height will be overestimated.
What are the hazards?
Next, it is time to look for hazards. Take a walk around the tree and look at it very carefully. There are many potential hazards. Anything the tree may hit on the way down is also a hazard. Buildings, fountains, electrical wires, people, wildlife, and cars are just a few of the hazards that must be avoided.
Another tree which can change the direction of the fall or hangup the tree you want to fell is a potential hazard.
Some sites are loaded with hazards!
We talked about hazards found on the tree itself in the previous newsletter, but I have to remind you to take a good look at the tree as well.
Does the tree lean?
There is an easy way to tell if a tree has lean. Make a circle by placing your index fingers and thumbs together. Peer through the circle and step back until you have most of the tree’s canopy in the circle. Drop an imaginary line from your index fingers and thumbs to the ground. How far is that line from the base of the tree? In this case it is 4 feet.
Lean needs to be measured at two separate locations. First measure lean in the line along which you intend to drop the tree. Then, move 90 degrees perpendicular to that and measure lean.
Generally if the tree has 3 feet or less of side lean, the notch may be adjusted to compensate. If it has more than 3 feet of side lean the tree will not fall in its intended path and you must come up with a new plan.
If you decide to adjust the line in which the tree will be felled, re-assess the lean again in the new line of fall and again, 90 degrees perpendicular to it.
When you finish this first step, you should have identified an intended path of fall.
We usually end with a video, but there are so many on YouTube in which cutters failed to assess Height, Hazards, and Lean that it is pointless to select one here.
SO WHO ARE THE SAW TEAM ANYWAY?
FROM OUR ARCHIVES
- Welcome to the UGA Saw Safety Series
- Hard Hats, Helmets, and Tree Care
- Excuse me, did you say “Hearing Protection?”
- Eye and Face Protection
- Chainsaw Chaps or Pants
- Boots and Gloves
- Carrying and Transporting Chainsaws
- Happy Halloween from the Saw Safety Team
- Tree Care Industry Association and The Dripline
- Safe Start
- Cool Equipment Break
- Saw Safety Holiday Demonstration
- Five Signs of a Dull Saw Chain
- Chains and Cutters
- Sharpening Tips
- The Bar
- Oil and Fuel
- Smoking and Fueling
- Chainsaw Sculpture
- Turn Your Saw Upside Down to Get the Chain Tight
- Mechanical Advantage
- Mechanical Advantage with Ropes and Knots
- Last Chance for Saw Safety Training
- Inertia Chain Brake
- Three More Critical Saw Safety Features
- Cool Cut: The Stump Cut
- Site Assessment: The Tree
WANT TO GET IN TOUCH WITH THE SAW SAFETY TEAM?
The Saw Safety Team has well over a hundred and fifty years of tree care experience.
We bring together two powerful educational teams to create Saw Safety.
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