Forest Industry Safety & Training Alliance, Inc.

Ben Parsons, FISTA Training CoordinatorJanuary 2013

It Can Happen...

Those who have spent any amount of time around me know that I almost always have a radio on. Although Bluegrass is my all-time favorite genre, I’m not real picky about what’s playing, just as long as I have some tunes in the background. The unfortunate thing about this habit is that for someone whose mind is always “turning and churning and burning” like me, not-so-random lyrics tend to pop in my head at very ironic times. I realize that most of you are now reading this, thinking “there’s something just not right” about this guy, but hey, “I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam”. To my knowledge, there’s not a name for this occurrence, but I’m certain it’s a result of some sort of mental condition. Only time and a team of psychologists with nothing better to do, will tell.

As embarrassing as it is, I had one of these “episodes” on November 16th. My mind replayed a song by an 80’s band called “YES” (the fact that I actually admit to listening AND remembering anything this group produced is part of the embarrassment). The song was “It Can Happen”, and the words bouncing around in my hollow head went something like this; “It can happen to you. It can happen to me. It can happen to everyone eventually”. Hmmm, so what kind of ironic event caused this horrific 80’s flashback? Well Mr. Alex Trebek, I’ll take “what is a chainsaw injury for 1000”. Yep, that’s right, the new face of FISTA is guilty of his very own self-inflicted chainsaw vs. leg injury. Twenty years have passed since the first time I put a chainsaw in my hands and this was my first, and hopefully only, incident of this nature. I would’ve thought that if I was to suffer a chainsaw injury, it would’ve taken place during the years I spent climbing up in a tree or bucket truck. Not while I was safely on the ground in full protective gear!

The incident happened while topping the felled tree at merchantable height and to be honest, the details of how the saw came in contact with my left leg are about as fuzzy as a Kevlar-seized drive sprocket. All PPE (hardhat, eye and ear protection, gloves, cut-resistant, hard toe boots and cutting pants) was being worn and in good condition. All the safety features of the saw were in good functioning order (chain brake, chain catch, throttle lock, anti-vibration system, and muffler screen). The cause of the accident is deemed to be my flawed technique and logic (go figure) and regrettably, my complacency with a well-sharpened chainsaw.

Granted, this was a small injury in relation to chainsaw accidents. The cutting pants received a 10 inch gash with only a 4 inch laceration in my shin that required a mere 8 stitches; but even a small injury in unpleasant. This goes to show that when we fail to plan ahead or think clearly, it’s the PPE that saves our tail. And let’s not forget; there are rare occasions when our PPE and saw safety features don’t prevent the accident. Sometimes the PPE only assists in reducing the severity. To be honest, my pride suffered more injury than the leg (the fact that I’m supposed to be a “safe-ty” trainer made up the remaining embarrassment). “Through mistakes, we’ve learned to gather wisdom”, so let’s take this opportunity to reinforce a couple basic chainsaw safety and “Learn from this mistake”.

The take home message from this article should be: “Look up, look down. Look out, look around. So look up, look down. There’s a crazy world outside. We’re not about to lose our pride”, and always wear the appropriate PPE for the job, especially with a saw in hand! Why? Because, “It can happen to you. It can happen to me. It can happen to everyone. Eventually”. So, “Regardless of who you are” and how much time you’ve spent with a saw in your hands, this goes to show that “we are human” and susceptible to accidents “in spite of ourselves”.

Oh by the way, now that you’ve actually read the full content of this article, we think you should be rewarded for your perseverance. Throughout this “crazy train” ride through the mind of one who “don’t… stop… thinkin’ about tomorrow”, I have quoted bits and pieces of actual songs. FISTA will send a logging congress sweatshirt to the first reader who can email, fax or snail-mail, the song title and artist of each song clip. Be sure the list is in the order they appear in the article with your contact information and shirt size. As always – be alert and be safe! See you next month!

Ben Parsons, FISTA Training Coordinator, is originally from West “By God”, Virginia as they say in that part of the Appalachian Mountains. His family’s deeply rooted philosophy of living off the land was monumental in deciding to earn a degree in Forest Management from West Virginia University.  Throughout his career, Ben has had the opportunity to tackle a wide variety of assignments.  He measured Forest Inventory and Analysis research plots in Virginia and Georgia, been involved with urban and utility forestry operations throughout the Appalachian region, procured lowland hardwood timber in the swamps of South Georgia, managed logging contracts and harvest operations in Arkansas and specialized in water quality and harvest planning as well as fighting forest fires in Virginia. As FISTA Training Coordinator, helping to meet your safety and educational needs is the number one priority here at FISTA.  For more information, contact Ben at 800-551-2656 or