Chainsawing? Wear Chaps!

Michael Gaines showed how a chain saw can get down to the bone, in this case on something from the butcher’s case in a recent demonstration. Heather Dubin

    Chaps may have their place in the world of fashion, but when it comes to using a chain saw, they are a definite must.
    Michael Gaines, founder and president of CW Arborists in East Hampton, held a free chain-saw safety class on Sept. 15 at his place of business on Three Mile Harbor Road. Seven people listened intently as he instructed them about the intricacies of chain-saw techniques.
    “Personal protective equipment is the most important part,” said Mr. Gaines. He discussed how a helmet made to federal standards is of better quality, and the strong webbing inside helps to absorb shock. While a good helmet may be expensive — around $130 — it is well worth it, he said. Wraparound goggles, earmuffs, steel-toed boots, and leg protection complete the ensemble. Chaps, which cost about $100, protect the femoral artery and veins on the legs. “One strike and it’s over pretty fast, folks,” warned Mr. Gaines.
    Nick Dilollo, a CW Arborists employee, was cutting down a pine tree two years ago sans chaps, and he learned their value the hard way. “After I cut the tree through, the chain saw hit my shin. It didn’t hurt until the stitches went in,” said Mr. Dilollo. (He received 30 of them.)
    Mr. Gaines explained the parts of a chain saw, talked about when injuries commonly occur, and discussed various ways to start it. “Many injuries happen from touching the mufflers,” he explained. “That’s a burning injury. Also, one out of five chain-saw injuries are from a kickback,” he said. This happens when the front or the tip of the chain saw touches something, causing the chain saw to rotate back toward its user. “Never cut with the quadrant in the front. It idles and flips up, and the blade can hit you in the face,” said Mr. Gaines.
    According to the International Society of Arboriculture, a kickback takes place at a rate seven times faster than a person can react. On average, Mr. Gaines said, chain-saw injuries are statistically more prevalent when it comes to hands, legs, and knees. “If you miss the brake, you can hit the blade with your hand,” he cautioned. At full speed, a chain saw can operate at 68 miles per hour. Most injuries occur when it is in idle.
    Mr. Gaines talked about how to sharpen a chain saw and demonstrated different kinds of cuts. To prove his point about the importance of chaps, he took a large saw to a pair, and showed how the fabric got stuck in the blade. This layer of safety greatly decreases the chance of a mishap.
    The arborist concluded the evening by cutting into a large piece of meat. Unprotected, the meat was sliced to the bone in a matter of seconds. Safety awareness and a calm demeanor are absolutely necessary when using a chain saw, said Mr. Gaines, adding that “things go wrong in our world when we’re frustrated.”