The SAFETY Stick…

By Tim Ard, Forest Applications Training, Inc.


When I discuss training for storm cleanup with towns and others operating chain saws; I always discuss the hazards of helping too much. I have heard several stories over the years of swamper’s, spotter’s and various crewmembers that were accidently injured by a chain saw.


One story was after hurricane Opal several years ago. A saw operator turned around and a coworker was standing close behind them. The coworker was cut across the midsection with the chain saw. An unplanned event…


Another story was about a chipper operator working on a roadside with a saw operator. The sawyer became bound in a small tree, attempting to cut it down after a storm had leaned it over. The sawyer recruited the chipper operator to push as he removed the saw from the bind. Why he kept the saw running I will never figure out, but the assisting chipper operator was cut on the leg while helping. An unplanned event…


Still another story, a coworker trying to assist a chain saw operator, clearing a downed tree on a road after a storm, was only trying to speed up the process and was pulling limbs as the sawyer severed them. He pulled, as the limb was being cut, causing a reactive force or either he simply pulled the saw with the limb into the leg of the chain saw operator. An unplanned event…


Reading recently a message from the USFS, they have had incidents where sawyers and swamper’s are working too close together and causing unplanned events.


What’s the answer to this continuously hazardous situation? SPACE! Slow down and give space for reaction time.


Let’s look at some very important math. If a six-foot person is holding a chain saw with only a two-foot guide bar and they, for some reason fall, what is the potential (minimum) reach (radius) of a danger zone for a crewmember or bystander? Person (6’ + 2’ min. arm length addition) + Saw (2’ bar + 1’ power head) = Minimum Danger Zone (11’). You can probably get more scientific than my simple equation, and possibly a lot more imaginative, but you can see the potential. So why do people want to be so close to an operator and a chain saw. They simply don’t understand the MATH.


Let the sawyer make the necessary cuts and when they are ready they will call you in to make the move on the brush and limbs. The sawyer must be in charge- take charge, of the work area. However the assistant, whatever you call them, must understand the math and get back from the work. Some have told me, in a wild fire situation or in a road is closed scenario, they don’t have time to stand back and wait. The situation calls for a lot of hurry up…  Folk’s there is nothing that will slow down a hurry up project more than someone getting cut, hurt or killed in the process. An unplanned event… takes away time.


I don’t know if you are aware of this tool and technique. I learned it the first time from a crew harvesting Christmas Trees in North Carolina. It was brought to my attention again a couple years ago from a company in New York that does seismic right of way work all across North America. It is an amazing tool for gaining distance from a sawyer’s chainsaw and it is an amazing tool for moving and windrowing brush and small limbs. The fabulous miracle tool I am speaking of – A stick.


Find yourself a sapling or a limb section, approximately six feet long. You may find a little longer or shorter fit’s you better. This tool can be easily customized. The large end should have a diameter of about two inches so it fits your two handed grip well. The small end should have a fork at the end, about a three-quarter inch diameter- see sketch. You can use this to comfortably stand and rake limbs back or pitch them forward to the side. You will see how amazingly this can move and spread brush with just a little practice.  





In summary - The Stick gives you distance from the saw. Can be used to hold brush for the sawyer to cut. It can windrow and spread limb and brush debris. The best thing is – ITS FREE!   Unless you just want to for some reason mail a check to the one that turned you on to it….


Remember to always wear PPE! Head, eye, face, ear, gloves, leg protection and boots when working with or around chain saws.


More information for chain saw operators can be found at the Forest Applications Training, Inc. website


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