(Reuters Health) - At-home users of woodcutting equipment are at risk for significant injuries, particularly of the fingers and hands, and should be vigilant about proper use protective gear, US researchers warn.
Investigators used a national database to look at emergency department visits for non-fatal injuries from power saws and axes between 2006 and 2016. During that period, there were 16,384 visits for power saw injuries and 1,866 for injuries involving axes.
About half of all injuries in both groups involved the fingers and hand, and 65 per cent occurred at home.
“Weekend woodsmen” put power saws and axes to work at home, but “they don't use the proper protective gear that the industry would require, and that's why we see these types of injuries”, Dr David Farcy of the Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Florida, who is president-elect of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine, told Reuters Health by phone.
Dr Matthew Hernandez and Dr Johnathon Aho and colleagues at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, report in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine that an “overwhelming majority” of patients sustained lacerations from power saw use.
This type of injury, they say, is typically associated with the “kickback” phenomenon, in which a rotating chain comes into contact with a hard object, eliciting a sudden and powerful opposing force strong enough to cause the saw to kickback toward the individual operating the device.
“Our body is no match for these power tools,” said Dr Ryan Stanton, a spokesman for the American College of Emergency Physicians, who wasn’t involved in the study. “We have had a number of folks with bad outcomes after someone was injured and wasn’t found for hours/days.”
“Use safety glasses, gloves, and never disengage safety guards on the equipment. I see this more often in professionals so they can 'work faster',” he said in an email.
The researchers also highlighted injuries sustained due to the mechanics of axe swinging. The swinging motion, which serves to increase momentum and to generate additional force when striking an object, predisposes users to back, shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand injuries.
Among the limitations of the study is that the database didn’t capture information on people who died from power saw or ax injuries before reaching a hospital.
Furthermore, people who sustained less severe and complex injuries may have chosen to self-treat their wounds and not seek professional medical care.
Farcy, who also wasn’t involved in the study, pointed out that the report didn’t include data on eye injuries from flying debris.
Stanton cautioned non-professionals against undertaking high-risk jobs, such as felling large trees.
“Know your equipment,” he said. “Don’t swing out of your league.”