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Staying Safe When Cleaning Up After Snow And Ice

Accumulated snow and ice are heavy, as is apparent by downed trees and branches littering the landscape after a winter storm. As ice melts, picking up the pieces and stocking up on firewood takes time. When cleanup is necessary, David Hillock, Oklahoma State University Extension consumer horticulturist, said proper precautions must be taken.


“Safety is the name of the game when cleaning up following a storm,” Hillock said. 


First, anyone who plans to operate a chainsaw should wear proper protective gear. Helmets, for example, help protect saw operators from falling limbs, and ear plugs or earmuffs should be worn to reduce exposure to the 120 decibel noises produced. Exposure to that level of noise for a long time can cause not only operator fatigue but also permanent hearing loss. 


Safety goggles or glasses and a face screen will help prevent injury from small particles, such as wood chips. Tight but flexible clothing is good for chainsaw operators, but saw chaps are recommended. Using steel toe boots also should be considered.


Before considering clothing, however, read the instruction manual; it will provide valuable guidance for ensuring the chain is sharp and the chain tension is correct. Even when a chainsaw is operated correctly and safety gear is on, Hillock said it’s important to remember such a powerful tool is still dangerous.


“Almost 55% of accidents in harvesting take place during the felling and bucking,” Hillock said. “Consequently, tree felling should never be attempted alone or by untrained individuals.”


Operators should take note of loose branches above and be mindful of which way larger pieces of wood will fall. Trees downed by storms also may be under tension and can become even more dangerous as saw cuts are made and the tension is released.


“While removing debris is something that must be done, preventing an accident is the most important job at hand,” Hillock said.


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