Breaking Bad Habits with Chainsaws!
What's so wrong about a bad habit? Well in the tree care industry, bad habits can lead to complacency, which itself turns into accidents. Let's discuss one of the worst offending habits: ONE HANDING A CHAINSAW!
The proper handling of chainsaws has surprisingly been a controversial topic throughout the tree care world. You will find professionals who agree you should never handle a chainsaw cut with one arm for any reason. People who disagree typically have the same logic:
“I’ve been doing that my whole career, and nothing has happened!"
This is that complacency I mentioned. Just because you may have skated by unscathed, doesn’t mean bad habits can't lead to disaster.
Regardless of anyone's opinion on the matter, it has been proven that one-handing a chainsaw cut is an unsafe act. Now this blog isn't a research paper to convince you of the danger. We could look up statistics, but that’s not what this blog is. Typically I like to share my own personal experiences to drive points home. I do get comments like “well you should’ve," but that's part of how we learn. At the end of the day we do want all climbers to work safe.
I’ve been in the tree care industry for 12 years now, but the crew I learned under did not have a formal training program for me. It also wasn't like today where you can find hundreds of climbing tutorials on YouTube. Our crew didn’t have any exposure to ANSI Z133 or any kind of safety guidelines. That meant I used to leave a lot of my safety to the roll of the dice.
Close Encounters of the Chainsaw Kind
I’ve experienced my share of close calls where a chainsaw goes flying by my helmet. I've also been caught pushing the treetop with one hand while the other hand "controls" the chainsaw. And yes those quotation marks are intentional. Nobody has full control of a chainsaw with one hand.
I remember at a TCI Expo when a presenter asked the question, “Who here thinks they’re better trimmers and faster because they one-hand a chainsaw?" Just about everyone in that room shot their hands up. and sadly mine too.
Arborists are always under a time rush, meaning we’re pressuring ourselves to finish quicker and cut corners. But ask yourself, is getting severely injured seriously worth it? To go faster? The answer is NO! Of course not, so why do professionals risk it?
At the expo, the presenter ended his speech;
“I challenge everyone in this room who raised their hand, to lanyard in, position correctly and to use both hands on the chainsaw”
We give you the same challenge: the next time you have that limb that’s just a couple of inches away and your tempted to one-hand, ask for a pruner or pole saw instead, or just rig it down!
Another option would be to re-tie in or redirect to get out there. Throw your lanyard on and make the last cut with BOTH hands on the saw. You will have gained the knowledge on better positioning, and you will become a much better climber who understands the importance of proper rope angles and the limits of the tree. Remember this: your boss may know you are one-handing and give the blind eye, but if an accident occurs, who really loses out?
What’s an extra few minutes to correcting your positioning? Let’s elevate the tree care industry and cut down the accident statistics. Climb Safe!