Chain saw safety information, if you have trees down

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MARSHFIELD, Mo. — Homeowners or disaster and storm recovery volunteers who use chain saws to cut or trim trees should use extreme caution to prevent injuries.

"In the hands of a careless, inexperienced or tired operator, a chain saw can be very hazardous. Injuries from a chain saw are usually quite serious," said Bob Schultheis, natural resource engineering specialist, University of Missouri Extension.

More than 40,000 people require hospital treatment each year for chain-saw-related accidents, according to the U.S. Product Safety Commission.

To reduce risk of injury, select a saw that fits the project and is balanced and has safety features. It is also a good idea to read the operating manual.

"One of biggest dangers in operating a chain saw is kickback. Kickback occurs when the nose of the guide bar strikes another object. It can result in severe upper body, neck or facial injuries or death. This contact may cause a lightning-fast reverse action of the guide bar back toward the operator," Schultheis said.

While the smaller consumer chain saws must come equipped with a low-kickback (or safety) chain when purchased, this is no guarantee that kickbacks will not occur according to Schultheis.

Be sure to match the length of the saw's guide bar to the type of job you expect to do most often. Do not attempt to cut material that is larger than the guide bar you choose.

A guide bar 8 to 14 inches long is good for trimming limbs, cutting small logs and felling small trees. Mid-weight saws with 14- to 20-inch guide bars are used to cut logs and for felling small-to-medium-diameter trees. Heavyweight saws with guide bars longer than 20 inches are for professional use and are not recommended for consumers.

Occasional saw operators as well as professionals should wear protective clothing like safety glasses, earplugs, high-top shoes, gloves and hard hats.

For more information on chain saw safety and use, contact the MU Extension center nearest you and ask for guide sheet 1959, "Basic Chain Saw Safety and Use," and guide sheet 1958, "Felling, Bucking and Limbing Trees," or obtain them online at