By M. Scott Morris
VERONA – According to North Mississippi Medical Center officials, two people have been treated for injuries resulting from tornado cleanup efforts.
Ted Gordon, safety director for the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Station in Verona, said he’s concerned the widespread use of chainsaws might cause more injuries in the days and weeks ahead.
“So many people don’t use proper safety procedures,” he said.
Operators should have earplugs, goggles or face shields, and safety chaps, he said.
“Always wear hard-toe shoes or boots, and long pants, not shorts,” he said.
It’s important to maintain proper footing, and Gordon said no one should lift a chainsaw over his head to cut limbs.
“You should also turn your chainsaw off when you move to another area,” he said. “You won’t find a lot of people who do that, but that’s why they get hurt.”
It should go without saying that operators should avoid alcohol and drugs.
“In some cases, fatigue is just as bad as alcohol,” Gordon said.
He was helping clear tornado debris at St. Luke United Methodist Church and saw someone working with a chainsaw for about three hours straight.
“It’s better to take breaks,” Gordon said. “If you have two or three guys who can operate a chainsaw, you should change out every 30 or 45 minutes. That way you don’t get so tired that you make mistakes.”
Here are more suggestions from Mississippi State University Extension Service to help keep chainsaw operators out of the emergency room:
• Keep the chain moderately tight and sharp.
• Do not operate a chainsaw in a tree or from a ladder unless trained and equipped to do so.
• Be careful when handling fuel. Move the chainsaw at least 10 feet away from fueling point before starting.
• Do not smoke while refueling.
• Never cut alone.
• Be aware of surroundings, including children and pets.
Local volunteers with good intentions also face serious injuries by working in areas without approval from local authorities.
Volunteers should contact the United Way of Northeast Mississippi or visit volunteermissisippi.org for opportunities to assist locally.
City officials warn trying to remove debris or cut trees with chainsaws can lead to injures in areas not yet identified as safe. Some areas may have live power lines not known to volunteers.
U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a statement Wednesday that compliance officers are in many areas with weather-related damage to ensure safety compliance.