This weekend, 30 people became safer sawyers by attending Chuck Oslund’s Chainsaw Safety Training hosted at MUCC. This was the third year in a row that this course has been offered to volunteers with MUCC’s Wildlife Habitat Program and the general public. This year, participants had the option to practice techniques learned within the safety system with a second training day held at the Rose Lake State Game Area. Half of the group, including two participants that took Chuck’s course here at MUCC last year, took advantage of the extra training offered in the field. Thank you to Bill Dawson and Bill Rushford for volunteering their time this weekend to make the field training possible!
Bill Dawson and Bill Rushford are two members of the Heavy Equipment Response Coalition (HERC). The HERC is being formed as a nonprofit organization of volunteers to rapidly respond to natural and man-made disasters using owner-operated heavy equipment throughout the United States. They are currently building a database of individuals, organizations, and businesses who own and operate heavy equipment of all types, including chainsaws, and wish to volunteer their equipment with operator to Immediate Response or Recovery efforts in their local area, or nationally. If you're interested, contact by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. There will be local Michigan opportunities to volunteer when the spring storm season comes around!
Chuck Oslund, Bill Dawson, Bill Rushford, and I were able to offer various levels of training to the participants in four small groups. Bill Dawson and Bill Rushford are both experience sawyers and were immensely valuable to this weekend’s training course. The field training started with adequate PPE fitting for each individual. Participants were then split up into four small groups based on current chainsaw experience and what techniques they wanted to practice. Each participant then practiced the safest ways to start their chainsaws, ensuring two points of contact. After all participants had become comfortable with their PPE and chainsaw basic operation, Chuck started out the field training with his demonstrations of the open faced bore cut felling technique. Small groups then split up to practice limbing and bucking techniques, open face notches on stumps, bore cuts on stumps, and some practiced felling a tree or two using these cuts.
Here are some of the key elements from the course that keep volunteers safe and efficient in the field:
- Safety first!! Do you have required PPE on?
Wearing adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) is the first step to ensure safe chainsaw operation. Every sawyer should wear PPE such as a hardhat with a face shield, eye and ear protection, work gloves, Kevlar chaps, and heavy duty leather steel-toe boots. You should always have a first aid kit with you and a means of communication such as a cell phone or walkie-talkie. More importantly, have a spotter; it’s nice to alternate when you get tired. Taking care of your saw in the field is important to your safety too, a dull chain is much harder to operate than a sharp chain; be sure to bring a sharpening kit along with fuel and bar oil.
- Chainsaw Operation Tips
Start your saw up safely with two points of contact rather than attempting a drop-start. Always use both hands when cutting and limbing, making sure to wrap your thumb around the handle and keep the saw below shoulder height. When cutting branches out of your way from the tree before felling, it is best to limb from the top downward. When you’re bucking the trunk after felling, stay on the uphill side of the tree and consider slope, tension and compression, pivot points, and rolling to stay clear of the tree. Always cut the compression side before tension to prevent getting your saw pinched. Also, observe the kerf (the opening or closing angle of the cut you’re making); use wedges to prevent the kerf from closing and to ensure that the tree will be felled in the direction you want it to go.
- Felling Trees: “Hazards lean towards my escape route which hinges on my cutting plan.”
The phrase “Hazards lean towards my escape route which hinges on my cutting plan,” summarizes the process in which to safely fell a tree. Look out for potential hazards such as throwbacks, lodged trees, widow-makers, snags, spring-poles, and terrain. Determine the lean of the tree. Lean has two directions; first is the side lean left or right, and second is forward or back lean. Plan escape routes 45 degrees from back lay to the good side and 45 degrees from the bad side and stand clear at least 15 feet. Always leave a hinge in the tree; this is your only control in felling the tree slowly and precisely where you want it. Have a cutting plan in mind; the most sure felling cut is the open face bore cut-see the full article and diagram of this technique here.
All of these key elements have been implemented in our own safety system with volunteers on wildlife habitat projects. A few participants gained important knowledge even after having prior sawyer experience for many years. Using these felling techniques in my own experience, every tree went where I had planned it to; which is important for my spotter’s safety too! Having a good safety system not only keeps you and your gear safe, it keeps you efficient. Upcoming this weekend, we will be utilizing the safety system as we fell trees to build brush piles for rabbitat in the Gourdneck State Game Area! Then, on January 28th, we will be restoring snowshoe hare habitat in the Grayling State Forest-see more details and RSVP to volunteer here!
MUCC's On The Ground Program is supported by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division