By JEFF BURBRINK
Extension Educator, Purdue Extension
GOSHEN — I have a scar on my left leg that reminds me both how lucky I am. During the summer of 2015, what was supposed to be a quick 10 minute pruning job sent me to the emergency room.
There were a couple of limbs overhanging the driveway, and I decided it was time to prune them. With the job done, I started back up to the house, when I noticed a small pointy stub of a limb at eye level on another tree. I decided to restart the chainsaw and cut that little stub off. That’s where the trouble began. Putting the weight of the saw on the stub, it broke immediately. The chainsaw, running at full speed, fell toward my left leg. I jerked up on the saw, and shut it off.
At first I didn’t notice anything. I picked up a few sticks under the tree and threw them into the woods. Then I felt a warm, sticky sensation on my foot. Blood was running down from a wound about 12 inches above my foot. No pain. Just a lot of blood, enough to justify a trip to the hospital. Five hours later I was back home, realizing I was a lucky man. Had the saw traveled another ¼ inch, my shin bone would have been destroyed.
I made several mistakes. First, it was to be a simple job, and I didn’t bother to change into appropriate clothing. In other words, I took a short cut. I was wearing shorts. Jeans would have been better. Still better yet, I should have worn a pair of safety chaps.
Second, I assumed the stubbed branch was solid, and I was not prepared for the saw to fall towards my leg. People just cannot react quickly enough to something like this. The accident is done before you can take corrective action.
Chainsaws are a wonderful tool, but you can do a lot of damage in a few seconds that can never be corrected. I would especially urge you to be careful if you are cutting down dead ash trees. Once the Emerald Ash Borer kills the tree, they become very brittle. The limbs are easily shaken loose from the vibration of the saw. Often, the trunk and major limbs reign down as the tree collapses. Having a little firewood on hand is not worth your life.