Take care when using chainsaws – Teagasc

Teagasc is reminding farmers to take care when using chainsaws, which are responsible for a number of deaths every year in Ireland. In the HSA farm safety fortnight, Teagasc has said that following the February storm, there is a lot of wind-blown timber on farms. Teagasc highlights cutting-up and removing this timber is potentially dangerous and needs to be risk assessed. The key decision is to assess what timber cutting you can do yourself and what is left to the professional. Teagasc stresses cutting down trees generally, or hung-up or blow-over trees, which are hinged at the root, is particularly dangerous. Timber under tension is also dangerous, as it can split and strike a person. It says chainsaws need to have a full range of safety features including a safety chain, chain brake, chain catcher, and be correctly sharpened. Wearing chainsaw protective equipment is vital, this includes: clothing and gloves with ballistic nylon; helmet with visor and ear defenders; and, suitable footwear. The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has been concerned in recent years with the increased number of fatalities involving chainsaws at work. Over the last five years 12 people have suffered a fatal accident arising from the use of chainsaws or tree felling work activities. The Teagasc National Farm Survey indicates that about 6.5% of all injuries, in the agriculture and forestry sector, are chainsaw or wood related indicating that approximately 120 serious injuries occur each year. The HAS says self-employed farmers, farm workers and contractors are particularly at risk. These persons may only use chainsaws occasionally and may lack the training, experience and knowledge required for certain tasks. Chainsaw injuries involve cuts and lacerations to the limbs, neck, head and trunk. The major cause of timber related fatal accidents is being struck by falling trees or branches while felling trees. Appropriate training in chainsaw use and the wearing of suitable protective clothing to protect against these injuries is essential. The HSA comment: “If you find you cannot meet the competency/training requirements or don’t have all the personal protective equipment for chainsaw work activities, then you must engage the services of a competent chainsaw provider.”

Key advice for chainsaw use:

  • Check the chainsaw thoroughly before use. Only use a chainsaw with correct safety devices
  • Chainsaws should only be used by suitably trained and competent persons
  • Tree felling should only be undertaken by competent persons and children or elderly should be kept away
  • Make sure a first-aid kit, including large wound dressings, is available
  • A safety helmet, suitable eye protection, ear defenders, chainsaw gloves, leg protection, safety boots and non-snag outer clothing should be worn
  • Follow the Guide to safe working with timber and chainsaws
  • Follow the Code of Practice for Managing Safety and Health in Forestry Operations

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