LINCOLN - Sixteen FFA students at Alcona Community Schools got a lesson in chain saw safety from one of the top members of the industry.
Randy Scully ventured out into the world after graduating from the high school in 1973 and eventually became national service manager for Stihl Inc., the largest chainsaw manufacturer in the country. He has been operating chainsaws for more than 30 years and is responsible for making sure Stihl products work well.
Returning to the school Tuesday, Scully told students in biology teacher Beth Read's class that they will probably use chainsaws in their lifetimes.
"You'll be able to take all the skills you learn in FFA and use them in your lives in various areas," he said.
He said foresters and loggers aren't the only people using chainsaws. Firefighters, rescuers and disaster cleanup crews are all trained to use chainsaws safely in emergency situations.
"A chainsaw is a very good tool for the purposes it's intended for," he said. "But if you use it in a way that it was not intended, it can harm you and even kill you."
As visitors and students watched, Read operated Scully's powerpoint program and he unsheathed one of the school district's own saws. Unlike other secondary schools, the Alcona County classroom was filled with enough gloves, safety helmets and other gear to protect dozens of students, because of district's focus on agri-science subjects.
But Scully never fired up the saw. Instead, he showed the students critical parts of the machine, including the chain brake system. A slide projected onto the screen behind him showed red dots on a human figure identifying were most injuries occur. For right-handed operators, the left hand and leg, from thigh to toes, are the most vulnerable.
"We want it to cut wood. We don't want it to be cutting you," he said.
His first advice to students was to read the manual a chain saw comes with. It will tell them how to safely operate the device and maintain it.
They also should wear the proper safety gear. Scully showed slides of how special fiber-filled chaps prevent cuts to the leg. Fluffy material inside special pads becomes instantly wrapped around the saw's drive system, stopping the machine instantly.
"You can be fired immediately at Stihl if you are using a chain saw and not wearing chaps," he said.
Other tips include:
* the handle of the chainsaw is designed for you to operate the machine to the side of your body, not in front of you. If the saw kicks back or the chain breaks, you are better protected from injury.
* check to make sure the chain brake works before you start cutting wood.
* wear a hard hat with ear protection and a face mask. Wear safety glasses over your regular glasses.
* hard hats have expiration dates. Replace them every three to four years.
* besides cutting chaps, wear gloves and reinforced boots that provide good traction in forests and on icy surfaces.
* keep the chainsaw sharp and use the proper tools and jigs for maintaining the chain.
* clean the blade and moving parts after each use.
* sheath the blade in its guard and store the chainsaw in its case.
Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.