Homeowners need to put safety first when using a chain saw this winter

Chain saws are a popular piece of power equipment among homeowners, particularly during the winter months.

To help ensure their safe and efficient operation, experts suggest these six steps.

• Select the proper saw.

A small, lightweight saw is best for cleaning up small limbs and branches. A mid-sized saw is suggested for cutting large stems or firewood. Large saws should be reserved for experienced users with de-manding needs.

• Wear protective attire.

Chaps or pants, eye, face and ear protection, protective footwear and work gloves are essential when using a chain saw.

When overhead limbs are present, a helmet should be worn.

• Inspect the saw before use.

Most modern saws are equipped with chain brakes, so follow the operator’s manual for testing the brake before each use.

Because a sharp chain provides the highest productivity and safety, ensure the chain is sharpened and tensioned correctly on the bar.

• Start safe.

The safest place to start a chain saw is on the ground. Assure that the saw is sitting securely on the ground by placing your right foot in the rear handle. Nothing should obstruct the guide bar and chain.

Firmly grip the front handle with your left hand and pull the rope with your right hand.

• Carefully plan your cutting job.

Avoid hazards like dead limbs, electric lines and roads. Maintain a safe distance from bystanders but never work alone. Evaluating the wind direction and the lean of the tree is critical in maintaining a safe working environment.

• Protect yourself against “kick-back.”

Kick-back is a sudden rearward motion of a chain saw caused by contact between the tip of the bar and a log or other obstruction. Kick-back can cause serious injury. A firm grip on the saw and the proper stance can reduce the risk or severity of a kick-back.

Taking the time to read your owner’s manual and review all safety precautions can help you prevent accidents and reduce the risk of injuries.