Friday, December 26, 2008

What I got for Christmas...Safe woodcutting

What I wanted for Christmas and what I got were two different things. What I did get from my wish list were a Husqvarna Pro Forest Helmet and a pair of steel toed boots. Well, to be specific about the headgear, it isn't a "helmet," its a "system," which means it's much cooler than a helmet. This baby has earmuffs and the face screen on it...all in one attractive bright orange package. From all the wood cutting I do, and the fact I am usually cutting alone, I have really grasped for all the available safety equipment. But as for the presents, that was it for my woodcutting hobby... No new 18 inch chain for "Big Orange" (my 455 Rancher), no 14 inch Poulan (I love these), no Coleman Cooler to hold my beverage, no dump trailer...But who's complaining?
I preach chainsaw safety too everyone I meet and all my friends who cut or own a chainsaw. My biggest impact on my annoyed friends came this summer when a buddy of mine went along with me to cut up three decent sized maples. He showed up in a T-shirt and shorts while I came in long pants, long sleeves, chaps, muffs, safety glasses, and chainsaw gloves. He told me he never knew that chaps existed so I went on about how much damage a brief encounter a chain can have on his upper thigh. Despite the heat of summer, I always wear the chaps when cutting. After this day, my buddy went to the local garden store in town and bought his own pair. Now he tells me he feels naked to cut without them. To me, cutting without safety equipment is like going out on the road without my cell phone. It just doesn't feel right.
What has been missing from my safety equipment stash until this Christmas was the helmet and steel toes. I am curious to see how I adjust to the helmet because its weight concerns me. Will it be comfortable when looking down on my log? Will it get me too hot and make sweat run into my eyes?
As for my steel toe boots, the ones I got for Christmas were too small so I will have to take them back. They are about "hunting boot" height on my calves and I wonder how these will behave when I cut this summer. I have always cut in tennis shoes, realizing the danger my toes are in, but I may benefit from the extra ankle support from the boots.
This summer I was cutting with my dad and we were pulling trees off a railroad cut and onto flat land. I had limbed the felled trees and dad would tie them to his bumper and pull them off the enbankment. Well, I wasn't far enough out of the way and a log snagged on a stump and spun around like a ball bat and swept my feet out from under me. My right ankle got sucked under the swinging log and was fractured. As I fell to the ground, knowing that something bad had just happened, my saw came bouncing to the ground about 4 inches from my head. Needless to say this put me out of commission for a month but I used this time to reassess my approach to this hobby. What if I were alone when this happened? What if I cut my leg with the saw...and I was alone??? Ugh. I shudder at the thought. So, right after this, I bought the chaps and wear them religiously. I bought the chain saw gloves as well...The left glove has the Kevlar material in it in case your hand slips off the handle and touches the chain... I am now always certain to carry my cell phone in my wedge pouch and I also give a map and address of where I am cutting. In fairness to my wife, I usually cut on old oil well access roads and railroad cuts so she probably would never be able to find me. I always make a point to take her or my dad on a Sunday drive and show them where I will be. I hope I never need them to come drag me out...but you never know.
Please, if you cut, be safe, don't get so drained that you start making careless mistakes, wear your personal safety equipment and if you have to cut alone, leave directions behind on where to find you. I also have no problem with any of you leaving to me one of your chainsaws in your will...if needed.

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