STILLWATER — Snow and ice are heavy. For proof, just look around at the downed trees and branches littered throughout the landscape after a storm.


Staying safe when cleaning up after snow and ice


As the ice melts, it will be time to start picking up the pieces and maybe even getting stocked up on some firewood. While cleanup is necessary, Craig McKinley, retired Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension forestry specialist, urges everyone to take proper safety precautions.


“Safety is the name of the game when trying to clean up following storms,” he said. “First, those operating chainsaws should be wearing the proper equipment and have read the instruction manual.”


Helmets help protect saw operators from falling limbs, and ear plugs or ear muffs 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.


Eye protection, in the form of 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.


After reading the operation manual and ensuring the chain is sharp and the chain tension is correct, it is time to start cutting. However, even when a chainsaw is operated correctly and safety gear is on, the job is still dangerous.


“Almost 55 percent of accidents in harvesting take place during the felling and bucking,” McKinley 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 that tension is released.


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