If you’re a landscape contractor involved in Hurricane Irma cleanup, be extra wary before you go near a downed tree with your chainsaw. A potentially fatal surprise may be hiding amongst the branches, as in a live power line you don’t see.

In Boca Raton, several trees that were blocking roadways couldn’t be removed, since they were tangled in downed high-voltage lines. City workers had to await the arrival of crews from Florida Power and Light before they could do anything about the situation. On private property, you might not realize that the same thing has occurred.

Something else in the tree debris may also be ‘live,’ and jump out and bite you – literally. Possums or raccoons might be hiding in or under the limbs. Even a scratch from a frightened wild animal will necessitate a visit to the ER for a rabies shot.

Even experienced contractors should heed the warnings, especially if debris clearing isn’t something they normally do. Landscape contractor Beau Riha, owner of U.S. Mow in Davie, has this advice: “Don’t take on any job that’s over your head (your level of experience or expertise),” he said.

“If it’s a couple of palm fronds, that’s one thing. But don’t try to operate equipment that you don’t really know how to operate.” According to Chaz Adams, public affairs manager for the city of Fort Lauderdale, “Everyone should protect themselves with the proper eyewear, long sleeves and gloves.”

Here are some more tips on using chainsaws safely:
Always keep both hands on the chainsaw handles;
cut only on the right side of your body;
cut only below your head, never over it;
and cut with the lower edge of the saw blade whenever possible, as cutting with the tip of the saw is inviting injury.

Also, use caution while cutting limbs or branches that were bent by the storm. They may snap back and hit you. And finally, let the chainsaw do the work, but don’t try to force it.

By all means, be careful out there. We don’t need any more casualties from this severe weather event.