Skip to main content

After the Hurricane: Cleaning Up Safely

chain saw cutting a tree

After a hurricane there is usually debris, limbs, trees fallen and other property damage. Homeowners can be seriously injured while doing their own tree work.  It is always a good idea to consult a professional before taking on major restoration and removal projects. Professional tree workers are required by law to wear personal protective equipment: hard hat, gloves, goggles, chaps, and other appropriate footwear.  If you decide in is necessary to use a chain saw to do some of the cleanup work yourself, make sure you know the guidelines and procedures to safely complete the task.

chain saw safety gear

Chain Saw Guidelines
  • Do not use a chain saw if you are not experienced in operating it or if you are not physically fit.
  • If you must use a chain saw, work only on the ground and read the instructions carefully.
  • Never do any tree work that involves, felling trees, climbing of any kind, or using ropes. Get a professional to help with these situations.
Create a Safe Work Zone
  • Survey the site- Identify potential hazards and discuss where there is potential injuries.  Agree on communication signals before you start to work.
  • Set a perimeter around the work area- Mark an area that is two times the height of the tree.  More distance is required when felling trees or dropping limbs.
  • Mark the area- Use tape or cones and keep non-workers safely outside this area.
Chain Saw Safety 

Chain saws are considered the most dangerous hand tool available. The risk of injury increases during hurricane cleanup when chain saws are widely used to remove trees and branches.  Use these guidelines to avoid injuries:

chart of chain saw body injury areas

  • Keep both hands on the handles – NEVER use only one hand when using a chainsaw.  If you are not capable of using both hands, seek help from a professional.
  • Follow manual instructions carefully- Ensure safe operation and proper equipment maintenance.
  • Take the time to do the job right – Most injuries affect the legs and feet and are the result of aggressive or careless cutting. Take breaks when needed to avoid fatigue.
  • Wear the appropriate personal protective equipment- includes: protective glasses and face shield, protective head gear, hearing protection, gloves, leg chaps, heavy work boots.
  • Cut at waist level or below- Overhead cuts can result in head injuries.
  • Take extra care when cutting limbs- Limbs that are bent, twisted, or caught under another object may snap back and hit you at pinch the saw.
  • Shut off equipment- Turn off chain saw when fueling it, carrying it a distance of more than 100 feet, or carrying it through slippery areas or heavy brush.
  • Be sure the chain saw operator is aware of your presence before you approach- Operators may not see or hear you approaching, make sure they are aware of your presence.  If you are the operator, be aware of your surroundings at all times.
  • Do not cut with the upper tip- Kickback occurs when the upper tip of the guide bar contacts an object and causes the saw to come straight back at the operator.  It happens so fast there is no time for reaction and results in serious injury.
  • Cut with the part of the bar closest to the engine-  Be aware of the location of the saw. Watch where the tip is at all times and do not let it contact the ground or other branches.

chain saw kick back zoneschain saw safety areas


Simple mistakes can end up in serious injury.  Knowing the rules and guidelines of chain saw safety can help prevent you or a loved one from becoming injured. If you want to learn more about chain saw safety click here.

Jana Hart- Extension Agent- FCS/4-H