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Dale's chainsaw incident. Minor as these things go, but it drew blood. See photos.  RSS feed

 
Dale Hodgins
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I had a minor chainsaw incident yesterday. I was kneeling in a hole cutting a stump below grade when the saw jumped and hit me just above-the-knee. My denim pants took most of the blow but I got a ragged but shallow, 2 inch wound. I cleaned and fixed the wound myself and was back working 90 minutes later.

 In 32 years of owning a chainsaw, this is the first time that I've drawn blood. When this sort of cut comes up in the future, I will put some sort of barrier between my legs and the chain.

 I won't get chainsaw pants. They are hot and reduce mobility. I must be able to move quickly.
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Jay C. White Cloud
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In 32 years of owning a chainsaw, this is the first time that I've drawn blood.


I am glad you are O.K. and the wound isn't worse...seems you are also very lucky to have this be your first!!...

Missing part of a patella, and some tendon from several rather nasty dances with these hideous (yet useful) machines myself, I too understand the terror they do inflict on flesh...and our psyche the few seconds after such altercations...

I won't get chainsaw pants. They are hot and reduce mobility. I must be able to move quickly.


Hmmmm....your propagative...as it is mine as well (sometimes) yet for the sake of other readers of this post...YOU and I both are fools for not wearing them...it isn't a matter of if this kind of accident ever happening to routine chainsaw users...it is a matter of when...

I still have my patella, and usable tendons because I did have protection on...and often feel the fool because I given in to the heat and take them off...

Just say'n...

Glad your up and running...
 
Russell Olson
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The stihl chaps are pretty easy to wear, plus they breathe out the back.
I even wear shorts with them sometimes. I can be a cowboy sometimes with my saw so the wife laid down the law on wearing them.
No less restrictive or hot than jeans.
 
Justin Deri
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If you're not going to wear chaps, then might as well wear nothing. As a volunteer firefighter, I get used to the many many layers in my bunker gear offering some sort of protection. And clearly all those layers do nothing:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5jW2HWV7ww

So, either increase your insurance plan or get some chaps. And after you've upped your insurance, buy an israeli tourniquet so you don't bleed-out in the woods. The femoral artery is only about an inch inside your inner thigh. Plenty of snuff videos on line showing people bleeding out in just a couple minutes from femoral injuries.

Yours truly,

Safety Sally
 
Dale Hodgins
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Most people who fly a desk for a living, sustain greater injuries than I have.  Many have bad backs. I'm going to be very careful whenever I kneel down in this position with the saw again. I was tired and should have stopped an hour before it happened.

The greatest risk that I'm regularly exposed to is falling. Falling debris is probably number two. The drive to the job is another.

I'm very agile. This saves me from most harm and it makes me money. I'm buying some good quality specialized tools that will occupy much of my time and make life safer. Tomorrow, I will lay down almost $900 for a Stihl cordless electric hedge cutter that extends to 8 feet. This is a safe distance from the business end and I will spend less time on ladders. Another $900 will provide a 12 ft cordless chainsaw on a stick. I will also pick up some good climbing gear. That's going to set me back $700 or more. Then I need a light climbing saw. By the time I run through $3000, my work will be much more safe.

Risks are part of my life. I consider myself a professional athlete who uses tools. Being in awesome shape for 50, I'm not due for a heart attack or diabetes. I may wear out or break. I will not get fat and rust.

Alternatively, I may turn the farm into a healing center where I peddle improbable cures for imagined ailments. There's money in that
 
Ann Torrence
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I put together a small trauma first aid kit for when DH operates the chainsaw: mainly a QuickClot impregnated pad, bandage to hold it in place and a whistle to call for help. I will add a tourniquet once we figure out which one (I have one on order to test out whether it really works to self-apply). It's about the size of two sandwiches. The rule is it goes with the saw. It won't do anything but keep the operator from bleeding out for the 20 minutes or more it will take for the ambulance to arrive, but that's all it's supposed to do. $20 of cheap insurance I hope we never need.

I'm glad you're ok, Dale.
 
Michael Cox
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Dale Hodgins wrote:I was tired and should have stopped an hour before it happened.


A good friend of our nearly lost his arm through tiredness. He is a tree surgeon and was doing roped work wearing chaps... towards the end of the day he was getting tired, hadn't quite finished the job and a rain storm was blowing in. He rushed, slipped and gouged a nice deep Z shape in his forearm. He was incredibly lucky that he didn't cut arteries or tendons and by 18 months later had recovered full use of the arm.

No amount of protective gear would have stopped that slip, but an accident was predictable under that combination of circumstances.

Personally I dress for the job - If the job is really straight forward and doesn't involve awkward positions then I'll sometimes go without chaps. If it involves larger wood, unstable terrain, possible hangups and snags etc... then I'll wear chaps and a hat. But my main precaution is knowing when to stop. On my own land I have no qualms about leaving a job half done when my arms and back are getting tired. Better to come back the following day and finish off.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Great post Michael C...!!...excellent advice for all of us....
 
Rebecca Norman
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So glad you're okay!

Oh man, my heart was in my mouth when some of our boys borrowed somebody's chainsaw this winter. They were cutting thornbushes, which are really awkward to get in and under, and of course one can get a thorn in the ear that makes you flinch. I was SOOOO happy when the owner thought they were going to dull the chain and took it back. Phew! Chainsaws are not commonly used around here. Every year when we have to pollard willows and it takes days with hand axes and pruning saws, I think of chainsaws, and then think, nah, forget it! But we don't have huge amounts or very hard wood to cut.
 
Michael Cox
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Rebecca Norman wrote:
They were cutting thornbushes, which are really awkward to get in and under, and of course one can get a thorn in the ear that makes you flinch.


The tool for that is a long pole with small pruning chainsaw blade on the end. Lets you reach in and chop branches and trunks without putting yourself in harms way. I've done similar jobs with my normal chainsaw and hate it - scratchy horrible work with bits falling on top of you all the time.
 
Rebecca Norman
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Thanks for the tip. Chainsaws are still rare around here, so we probably couldn't get unusual chainsaws like that. And cutting thorns is only a few days' work a year. I dunno, I'm just as happy if my friends and students and colleagues here don't go for chainsaws.... They'll become common here someday, but I'm not eager for that.
 
Michael Cox
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Rebecca - like everything else a chainsaw is just a tool. Once you learn your way around them and know how to manage both them and yourselves they are not really more dangerous than anything else on an active farm. I have always had a healthy apprehension of them, but I've gradually over a number of years become more confident and proficient in their use.

But like you say, the jocks who pick up a saw once per year and try to do some awkward job are the ones more likely to get injured.
 
David Livingston
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For me its about spare parts
For the Stihl no problem for the human....
The customer services department never answers me , the right parts are hard to find and as for trying to read the warrentee ......

David
 
Dale Hodgins
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Since you mentioned Stihl, here's my new long reach cordless hedge cutter. There's a matching chainsaw pole pruner with a 12 ft reach. By using these two, I'll spend less time on ladders. The risk of falling is by far the greatest threat to my health and safety.
http://www.permies.com/t/47122/gear/Dale-cordless-electric-long-reach
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David Livingston
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I looked at them in the shop a great bit of kit . But not for me as I am reducing all the hedges to 5ft from 15ft +
I have the chainsaw the hegde trimmers and the strimmer all on the same battery and charger . Only one battery as it stops me working too hard .

David
 
Michael Cox
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We are taking our ornamental hedges down from 15ft to about 10ft. Can't go any lower as they are on a steep slope so the down hill side will always be tall.

We need the trimmer for the thickness... approximately 10ft wide.
 
Dale Hodgins
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I will use the pole pruner when cutting branches that are within 15 feet of the ground. I could cut things slightly over 18 feet high. Pole pruners can be dangerous if constantly used for maximum vertical reach. This puts the operator directly under branches being cut. It's best to keep well to the side. When working from a 14 ft broad base fruit picking ladder, I'll be able to stand with my feet 10 feet off the ground and cut branches that are 25 feet up.
...........
 When dropping trees, I've found that most evergreens show you pretty clearly which way they want to fall. Many hardwoods have tops that sprawl all over the place, so the natural direction of fall isn't quite so clear.

With a pole pruner,  you can lop off many of the branches on one side as well as anything that is dead.  Dead branches can fall off while you're cutting.  This makes it possible to give most trees a clear direction of fall.
........
 I sometimes find myself 12 or more feet off of the ground, climbing along the tops of cedar trees which have been cut off to make a hedge. The trunks range between two inches and eight inches across and the hedges are up to 15 feet thick. The pole pruner will allow me to do most of these cuts from the ladder, or while safely positioned on one of the larger trunks.
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Michael Newby
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Glad to see you didn't hurt yourself too badly, really glad to see that you're one of the few people who spends their hard earned money upgrading their tools.

Just my 2 cents here but working with chainsaws daily in a variety of situations I personally really love these chainsaw protective pants. They're the lightest most breathable dedicated chainsaw protective pants I've found. They're admittedly on the pricey side but if you only wear them once a week or so for somewhat questionable saw work protection then they'll last for years. Even though you weren't seriously hurt you still had downtime that could have been avoided which can pay for the protective gear right there.

If you've never been to the Sherrill Tree website be ready to spend some time geeking out on all the tree gear they have. From what I've seen of you're posts I think you'll be able to appreciate a lot of the things they have.
 
S Haze
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a whistle to call for help


Now that's a smart idea for something to carry! Last year a neighbor rolled over a tractor onto himself and was stuck under it for hours while his wife was inside nearby. He yelled, which evidently wasn't loud enough might have had to do the tractor on top of him, and banged a wrench against the fender and even though she heard that it still took that much time before she realized something was wrong and he wasn't just working on something.

A phone works too but a whistle could be better in some cases.
Glad you're okay Dale and thanks for sharing all the gory details so that maybe we can all learn something!
 
Michael Barratt
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Why not utilize a SawzAll with pruning blade, even regular wood cutting blades work real well and sooooooo much safer than a chain saw for anything smaller than your arm. And then you can use it to cut the roots in the dirt without worrying about ruining the bar. Might not be able to get one on a pole but they are real easy, and safe, to use one handed when on a ladder
 
Dale Hodgins
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They are ultra slow and blade breakage would cost more than I charge for many jobs. Reciprocating saws have their uses, when doing fine pruning. I have made several hundred chainsaw cuts today. This would not have been practical or economic without a chainsaw.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Two weeks later, it's healing up pretty good. The trench is now a narrow crack. The portion on the left was really torn up. I kept it really clean and used an iodine solution left over from a friend's operation. I took half a day off work and then got busier than ever.

I've spent about $1500 since the injury, on a cordless, long reach hedge cutter and pole saw. These tools keep me closer to the ground and further from the business end.
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Will Meginley
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Dale Hodgins wrote:I was kneeling in a hole cutting a stump below grade when the saw jumped and hit me just above-the-knee.


For the benefit of readers with less chainsaw experience than folks like Dale or Jay C., it's worth expanding a bit on WHY this happened so others can avoid making the same mistake. As far as we know, chainsaws aren't sentient beings - they don't just jump up and bite people. What Dale described is a classic example of a phenomenon called "kickback," which unfortunately is one of the more common causes of chainsaw injury. It occurs when the very tip of the saw bar comes into contact with an object. At that area of the bar the chain is moving very rapidly straight "down" (toward the direction the bottom of the saw is facing, versus "up" toward the direction the top of the saw is facing.) This causes the tip of the bar to move forcefully "up." If the user isn't expecting and prepared for this it can cause the saw to pivot around the powerhead or trigger and into the user's body. Not being there to see the accident, my guess is that the tip of Dale's bar either hit a rock, a root, or the side of the hole and he wasn't holding the saw in a way that prevented the saw from pivoting around and cutting him.

In a way, Dale was lucky because he was holding the saw horizontally at the time. As such, he only got it in the knee. Most kickback injuries take place when the operator is holding the saw straight out in front of them, and are suffered on the left shoulder, the left side of the neck, or the top of the head if they aren't wearing a hard hat. Chaps would have been helpful in this situation - and I'm glad many people have taken that lesson from this thread - but chaps won't save you from all, or even most kickback injuries.

Fortunately, kickback injuries are entirely preventable. Some things you can do to avoid suffering one yourself include:

- Never attempt to cut anything with the tip of the bar. Make your cuts as far back toward the powerhead as you can.

- Never make a cut if you can't see where your bar tip is. Before cutting something, check behind it for unseen objects you might strike and deal with them before you make the cut.

- Never cut with the top of the bar. This can result in a situation known as "push back" where, instead of cutting, the teeth dig into the tree - shoving the saw forcefully back toward you. Not only will this result in a painful punch in the gut, it can push the saw back far enough that the tip of the bar contacts the tree, possibly resulting in a kickback injury to boot.

- Always have two hands on the saw any time the chain is spinning. This gives you more control over it as it's kicking back. Even if you're not strong enough to stop its momentum you can at least try to deflect it so the chain won't strike you.

- Avoid holding the saw in a way where one of your hands isn't holding the grip immediately behind the chain brake. That chain brake is positioned where it is so that the momentum of a kicking saw will automatically push the chain brake lever into your arm as the saw arcs back toward you. Once engaged, this causes the chain to stop, so even if the chain strikes you at least it won't be spinning. You'll still get cut up a bit, but nowhere near as badly.

- Resist the temptation to stop a spinning chain under non-emergency conditions by engaging the chain brake. This wears it out and may lead to it not working when you truly need it. Let the chain come to a stop on its own or gently hold it against a log or stump once you've let off the trigger until it comes to a stop.

- NEVER USE A SAW IF THE CHAIN BRAKE DOESN'T WORK. On a good saw you can replace a broken chain brake. If you can't replace it on yours get a better saw!

- They make special "reduced-kickback" chain which makes kickback less forceful when it occurs. All of the above still apply. I don't use it because it's a royal pain in the #### to sharpen, but if you're a super safety sally that's also an option.

Uber kudos to Dale for bringing this important topic up. This is the first time I've ever seen it mentioned outside the wildland fire world other than those little stickers nobody reads.
 
Jesse Cantrell
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D.W. Dent "the Art of Timber Falling" will give you a good heads up on chainsaw. But since you've been running one for years and years, you've been lucky. It's a nasty tool in the best of circumstances. In confined areas, such as your accident, try to give the saw a way out, and your leg. Legs are scarce, I understand. Youve only got two. I like stump grinders, but they're costly.
 
Dale Hodgins
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It's been one year and two days since the incident. People like to talk about kick back, so I let them run with it.

 My cut was not a kick back injury. The saw was rather dull and it was cutting crooked as they do when the chain is damaged. I was sawing it back and forth and wiggling it quite a bit , to make it bite. I jammed it against something too hard and it bounced back.

There has been advice here to never use the tip of the saw or the top of the bar. I have reason to use the tip of the bar regularly and I use the top of the bar every day. Tip cutting is done during plunge cuts and sometimes to get little branches on a maximum reach. Top of bar cuts are done when I'm making horizontal cuts when topping hedges. This blows the sawdust away from my face. I also use top of bar cuts when processing firewood from horizontal limbs. On smaller limbs up to about 4 inches thick , I make my first cut dropping the bar down and then return with it slicing up through the same piece of wood 16 inches further along. This is only done on things that are easily accessible, mostly on trees that are laying on the ground. It's a speed thing. The trigger of the saw is completely depressed for several cuts in a row.

Greater care must be taken when using the top of bar or the tip, but there are times when experienced operators do all sorts of things. I have done some chainsaw carving. The saw has been held in every conceivable way.

Some of my family were horrified to discover that I fixed this myself. If you talk to 10,000 people , you are unlikely to meet someone who uses the word Sissy, as much as I do. It's my second favorite word after one that starts with c. I have a reputation to uphold. I can't go running to the doctor with every little scratch.☺

The new tools are making life safer. The Long Reach pole saw and hedge cutter keep me closer to the ground and further from the edge of roofs. The extremely light Makita topping saw has made ladder work less exhausting and safer. The pole saw has made it so I seldom have to lean far to the left or right when topping hedges. Since buying this equipment, I have seldom found myself more than 20 feet from the ground.

Here's something unexpected. I bought an E-go cordless lawn mower. When using the lawnmower, I make $45 to $50 an hour. When doing far more skilled work with my chainsaws or with my carpentry tools, I tend to make around $40 an hour, when all is said and done.
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