Chain saw safety: Don't cut corners
With home heating oil prices expected to hit record highs this winter, many homeowners are instead turning to wood stoves and fireplaces.
A return to wood as a home-heating fuel, however, may also translate into growing numbers of homeowners taking to the woods, armed with dangerous power tools like chain saws and log splitters.
That is why Ashland Fire Lt. David Iarussi is so concerned about the trend.
"The thing is, every year we get a certain amount of calls related to saw injuries," Iarussi said yesterday. "Most of them (come down to) common sense and just taking a few minutes to look at what you're doing before you do it."
This past weekend, an Ashland man injured his hand while cutting wood with a chain saw.
With wood heat becoming a popular - and less expensive - alternative to oil, Iarussi believes there may be similar incidents before the year is out.
"A chain saw is one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment around, because once you stop cutting, the blade is still spinning," he said.
Ultimately, Iarussi said, the solution comes down to people making sure they know how to use equipment before heading into the woods.
"They need to look at the instructions," he said. "The instructions are very explicit...but do people take the time to read them? That's the question."
Iarussi's advice for those who want to err on the side of caution? Ask for some tips when you buy a chain saw, or bring an older model to a hardware store for advice.
"I think...if you went into Home Depot, to the area where they sell chain saws, and said, 'Can you give me a little advice,' they would," he said.
"Any of our folks in the garden department and anyone in tool rental can provide operating instruction," Jennifer King, a spokeswoman for Home Depot, agreed yesterday. "If someone comes in and says, 'I need help,' we certainly have the folks who can help them."
Once winter arrives, those help requests may go up.
Although she didn't have exact figures, King said sales of chain saws and log splitters have increased from last year at this time.
In the last seven or eight years, Hopkinton Fire Chief Gary Daugherty said the town has seen two chain saw-related accidents, both of which involved professionals, a fact, he said, inexperienced people should keep in mind.
"If you're not familiar with (the tool) get some kind of instruction, at a minimum, from the guy you buy it from," he said. "If you're not real familiar with them, then maybe find somebody that's got some experience. It's just common sense."
After more than four decades of working with chain saws, Ed Mailhot Jr., owner of Ed's Tree and Landscape Service in Natick, knows the risks, but worries many people are not as aware.
While working on a pile of logs years ago, Mailhot's saw "kicked back" at him, ripping a hat off his head and slicing through several layers of clothing, cutting his arm.
"It didn't do a lot of damage on my arm, fortunately, but for a moment, I wondered if I had a face left," he said. "Let me tell you this, chain saws are very dangerous.
"People, they don't know. They think a chain saw gives you a right to manhood. With a chain saw in your hands you become a real man. You can become a real man, with an arm missing or a foot missing."
"It is a concern," agreed Ron Iacovelli, safety manager at Cedar Lawn Tree Service in Ashland. "Because somebody, somewhere is going to get hurt. It might only be one person, but that's too many.
"It is a shame people can just walk into Home Depot and buy a chain saw and put it into a tree and think they know what they're doing. You have to respect the fact that it can kill you, or injure you severely. If you don't have that fear, you will end up hurting yourself," he said.
Peter Reuell can be reached at 508-626-4428, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MetroWest Daily News