Power Equipment Safety

Safety is a little like the weather: Everybody talks about it but nobody does much about it. But you need to get hurt only once to become safety conscious forever.

Basically, what’s needed is common sense—in short, know what you are doing. Don’t plan to fall a tree 5 feet in diameter unless you are experienced.

Safety also means planning ahead—that is, knowing ahead of time what the reaction will be to your action. When you swing an axe, make sure it hits where you aimed. If you cut down a tree, make sure it falls in the right direction.

Keep your working conditions neat. Clutter makes an accident a lot more likely to happen—tripping you up and causing general confusion by its mere presence. Work slowly and methodically and always keep your balance. You’re headed for trouble if you manhandle a rotary tiller around a turn or overreach for a branch with a chainsaw and lose your balance.

Good cultivation techniques are part of safety practices. Keep your hand relaxed when holding tools. Tighten your grip only when the tool touches earth or wood—a continuously firm grip will channel tension through your arms to your back and make you long for the easy chair. When possible, change hands to allow one side of your body periodic relaxation.

Safety Equipment

Wearing protective equipment is part of good safety practice. Depending on the kind of work you are doing, you might consider any or all of the following:

Gloves are designed to protect your hands from blisters, painful splinters, and cuts that can lead to infection. Leather gloves last a long time and protect well, but they aren’t cheap; cotton work gloves cost less and also provide some protection. Use rubber or plastic disposable gloves when you work with toxic chemicals. If you are gloveless when working with a shovel or hoe, rub your hands with some dirt to keep them dry—moist hands blister easily

Work Boots vary widely in cost, quality, and style. Choose what best suits your needs. You will probably need the extra protection of steel-toed boots if you are working with heavy materials or tools.

Safety Goggles are most useful when you are using a bench grinder to sharpen tools. The grinding process throws thousands of small metal fragments, seen as sparks, into the air. Just one of them can be painful and possibly damaging to your eyes. Also wear safety goggles when you use a splitting maul and steel wedge to split firewood. Wedges can chip and send a splinter of steel toward your eyes. Wear them also with any tool that can throw material, such as string trimmers and shredders.

A Hard Hat is mandatory when working in the woods with a chainsaw. Dead limbs can and do fall out of trees. Loggers call these limbs “widow makers” for good reason.

Hearing Protectors are suggested for anyone who does much work with a chainsaw—the noise of the engine can actually damage hearing. Use small rubber ear plugs or the earmuff-style protectors worn by target shooters. Either type will block out the ear-damaging sound of the engine but will still allow you to hear someone talking to you.

Dust Masks protect you when working in dusty conditions, such as when driving a small tractor in a garden or orchard. To some degree they will also filter out pollen in the air.

Respirators, however, do a much better job of filtering the air; wear one if you do extensive spraying with pesticides. This is especially important when you direct the spray high in the air, as in an orchard. Respirators contain filters that screen out most of the toxic elements in pesticides. There are specific filters that will give maximum protection on specific pesticides. Consult the pesticide manufacturer for the best filter in each case.