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Chain Saw Safety - Advice from an Expert

Part 1 - The Carl Smith Chain Saw Safety Interview

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Limbing a tree in full safety gear.

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"A chain saw is the most dangerous hand tool that can be purchased on the open market. It requires no license and no training to own or operate. Approximately 40,000 injuries and deaths were reported last year in the United States...and most could have been prevented."

Carl Smith in a statement from his basic chain saw course

    Carl Smith is a fifth generation logger who received a forest technician degree from Green River. Carl started his career with The Weyerhaueser Company. Smith eventually went to work for the United States Forest Service where he trained employees of the National Park Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs.

    Smith has a personal business that trains chain saw operators for timber companies and is also in the process of writing a book on this subject as well as making a video .

    Contact Carl Smith at backcut6@msn.com

    Q: Carl, welcome to Forestry at About.com. Your biography certainly indicates a lot of forestry experience and I couldn't have picked a better person on the subject of chain saws. You are an expert in handling chain saws and I want to ask you a few questions.

    Carl Smith: Thanks for the invite and I will be glad to help you with this.

    Q: As a forester, I have seen what a chain saw can do to a careless user. How dangerous is a chain saw?

    Carl Smith: If you place your hands on a chain saw, you must keep in mind that it is like grabbing a hand grenade without a pin in it. It is very likely to go off in your face. From the moment that you take it out of storage to the time that it goes back to the same place, you can be hurt by either it, or by whatever you will be cutting.

    The chain saw is the most dangerous hand tool that can be purchased on the open market. It requires no license and no training to own or operate it. An overall average of 40,000 injuries and deaths occur annually in the US. This figure is just the "reported" accidents given by hospitals willing or able to furnish the information. That figure does not include out-patient visits to the doctor.

    Most chain saw accidents are preventable. The only answer to reducing these accidents is proper training and knowledge with a lot of time using a saw - which is experience. You can gain experience the hard way and have the scars to prove it or you can do a little preventative reading.

    Q: That's what we are trying to provide here.

    Seems that chain saws are very dangerous if not used properly. That may carry over to the type saw you purchase. What type of saw would you choose if you were safety aware and wanted to make your first purchase?

    Carl Smith: The chain saw that you purchase should be of the correct size for the jobs that you intend to do. To use a chain saw with a 36" bar for cutting 10" diameter trees is not appropriate. Conversely, a 10" bar is not appropriate for cutting 36" diameter trees. Many options must be considered before the purchase of a chain saw: horsepower, chain speed, bar length, weight, type of handle bar, type of bar, type of chain, etc...

    Unfortunately, all chain saws are made for right-handed people. By using a "full wrap" handle bar, this will help out the left-handed operators to some extent. Your local chain saw dealer should have the ability to let you know what is right for your needs. Explain to them what you will be using the chain saw for. Chain saws can be purchased at your local hardware stores, large discount stores, or a chain saw dealer.

    The best place to purchase this piece of equipment is a chain saw dealer, due to warranty work. Hardware stores and discount chains will not uphold a warranty while the chain saw dealers will if purchased from them. If you decide to use the classifieds, friends, or swap meets to purchase a chain saw, get the same information from your dealer beforehand. Also, purchase a book on proper chain saw use and techniques for cutting trees. This will help save your life or someone who will be with you.

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