Winter weather can wreak havoc on homes and businesses. Snow and ice can lead to broken tree branches, make driveways and walkways treacherous, and, in extreme cases, even knock out power. Having the right outdoor power equipment on hand can help keep your property safe and make easier work of winter chores.
The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, an international trade association (opei.org) representing power equipment, small engine, utility vehicle, golf car and personal transport vehicle manufacturers and suppliers, reminds home and business owners to keep important safety steps in mind when using outdoor power equipment.
General safety tips
● Take stock of the machine to ensure it is in good working order before use. Follow all manufacturers’ instructions for operation.
● Review owner’s manuals. Look them up online if hard copies aren’t readily available.
● Move equipment to a convenient and accessible location so you can get to it quickly when needed.
● If equipment is battery powered, be sure batteries are fully charged. For gas-powered equipment, the machine should be turned off and cooled down before refueling.
● Use the type of fuel recommended by the equipment manufacturer. It is illegal to use any fuel with more than 10 percent ethanol in outdoor power equipment and it is always best to use fresh fuel. Use fuel that is less than 30 days old. Never put “old” gas in your outdoor power equipment. If you don’t know the date of purchase, safely dispose of fuel and buy fresh gas. Only store gas in an approved container and away from heat sources. For more information visit LookBeforeYouPump.com.
● Why you need it: Those living in colder climates know that clearing driveways and sidewalks is no small task. A snow thrower (also known as a snow blower) can make a big job easy.
● Key safety tips: Snow can hide objects that can harm machines, property, people or pets. Clear the area of any doormats, hoses, balls, toys, wires, and other debris. Keep kids and pets inside your home where they can be supervised by someone else while you are using a snow thrower. Always wear safety glasses, gloves and footwear that can handle slippery surfaces. Never put your hands inside the auger or chute; instead, use a clean-out tool or stick. Also, always turn off your snow thrower and wait for all moving parts to come to a complete stop before clearing clogs. Never throw snow toward people or cars, and don’t attempt to clear steep slopes or hills.
● Why you need it: If the electricity goes out – a frustrating inconvenience for home and business owners – a generator can keep power flowing at a reasonable cost.
● Key safety tips: Never place a generator inside a home or garage. It should be a safe distance from the structure and not near an air intake. Install a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector, which will sound an alarm if dangerous levels of carbon monoxide enter. If you don’t have a transfer switch, use the outlets on the generator. Plug directly into the generator, and if you need to use an extension cord, make sure it is heavy-duty and designed for outdoor use.
● Why you need it: A chainsaw can help easily remove damaged tree branches after a winter storm so they don’t cause more destruction to your home and property.
● Key safety tips: Always stand with your weight on both feet and adjust your stance so you are angled away from the blade. Hold the chain saw with both hands and anticipate kickback. This may happen when the moving chain at the tip of the guide bar touches an object or when the wood closes in and pinches the saw chain in the cut. Never over-reach or cut anything above your shoulder height. Always have a planned retreat path if something falls.
● Why you need it: A pole saw can help prune and remove tree branches and shrubs that are up high giving reach that would normally require use of a step ladder.
● Key safety tips: Clear the area underneath where branches need trimming. Don’t operate the pole saw if bystanders, children, and pets are nearby. Be sure you are not cutting near electrical lines. Branches should not ever be cut directly over your head.