Safety During Hurricane Cleanup

Kenny Stokes, a courier for the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, battles summer heat the old fashioned way.

Remember that safety is your first priority. Most injuries and death in a natural disaster occur during cleanup.

Assume all power lines are energized and do not touch. Improper use of generators may energize lines without warning. Beware! Electrocution may occur if any part of your body touches a conductor (water, tool, tree branch, metal fence, etc.) in contact with an energized power line. Call the power company to report tree limbs that have fallen on a power line.

Make sure you work with someone, not alone, and have a first-aid kit nearby. It is important to have an Epi-pen in case you have an allergic reaction to an insect sting. Avoid overexertion – this is the most common cause for injury. Avoid lifting more than 50 pounds and remember to lift with your legs and not your back. Hot weather is dangerous. To avoid heat exhaustion or stroke be sure to take frequent breaks in the shade or somewhere cool. Drink small amounts of water frequently. Remember that drinking water is your best defense against heat related illness. Protect your skin from the sun and insects. If using loud equipment be sure to protect your hearing. Wear protective eyewear.

Chainsaw safety gear

Chainsaws are the most dangerous hand tool available. Use these guidelines to avoid injuries:

  1. Follow manual instructions carefully to ensure safe operation and proper equipment maintenance. 2. Wear personal protective equipment, which includes protective glasses and face shield, protective headgear, hearing protection, gloves, leg chaps and heavy work boots. Make sure hair is tied up and that any clothing cannot be caught in the chainsaw. 3. Keep both hands on the handles. Many injuries happen when using the saw with just one hand. 4. Cut at waist level or below. Many head injuries happen when making overhead cuts. 5. Take extra care when cutting limbs that are bent, twisted, or caught under another object as they may snap back and hit you. 6. Take your time. Most injuries to the legs and feet happen because of aggressive or careless cutting. Take breaks when you start getting tired because most injuries happen when you are tired. 7. Shut off the saw when you are fueling it or carrying it more than 100 feet, or through slippery areas or heavy brush. 8. Make sure a chainsaw operator is aware of your presence before approaching them. They may not see or hear you approaching, especially if their back is to you. Stay clear of them and toss a glove or something soft at them to get their attention. 9. Do not cut with the upper tip of the chain saw. Cut with the part of the bar closest to the engine. Watch where the tip is at all times – do not let it contact the ground or other branches. Kick back occurs when the upper tip of the guide bar contacts an object and causes the saw to come straight back at the operator. Kickback happens so fast that there is no time for reaction.

Hire a professional tree company when taking trees down, or removing dead or hazardous limbs. Hire an International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) arborist for removing a leaning tree or broken limb that is near a house or other potential target; for removing limbs that require climbing; for restoring a damaged tree that could be saved; or for pruning to promote good structure. Always make sure anyone you hire has current insurance for property damage, personal liability and worker’s compensation.

Remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Always think safety, take your time, and protect yourself. Storm damage cleanup is extremely dangerous, even for professionals!