Children and Wood Piles
It can be a very worthy thing to teach children to help with processing firewood. However, as with other rewarding things in life, there are risks involved and dangers to consider.
Many of Wayne’s customers, and Wayne himself, have their children build character (and muscles!) by teaching them to safely handle firewood. Whether it’s by sawing, splitting, stacking, carrying it into the house, or building or tending to the fire, children learn a lot about Alaskan home life by helping with age and developmentally-appropriate firewood chores.
It’s probably a given that most parents realize that firewood chores – every one of them – come with potential risks. Burns, cuts, splinters, falls in or onto woodpiles, and firewood pile collapses are just a few. The most important thing to realize is that many firewood accidents involving children can be prevented.
The only way to apply the protection afforded by prevention is to teach our children how to be safe and to supervise them until they are of the age, understanding, and full-ability to work unsupervised. Listed below are a few things that might help parents, along with their good common sense and knowing their children as no one else on earth does, keep their children safe while helping out with wood chores:
- Accidents can happen to anyone, anytime, when safety measures aren’t followed (and even sometimes when they are). For example, the photo below is of a seventeen-year old young man’s leg, taken while he was in a local emergency room, after he had just had two sets of stitches placed: one in the deep muscle, and those you see through the skin. He had been told by his father to never use a splitting maul in an effort to remove, by striking, another splitting maul that was stuck in a piece of wood. The young man was in a hurry to get his firewood work done, did what his father had told him not to with splitting mauls, and got his leg cut deeply by a piece of splitting maul metal that flew through the air, through the leg of his work pants, and across the calf of his leg.
- Log and firewood piles are dangerous. They can fall on a person and cause serious injury and even death. They are not to play on. A child can get his foot caught, try to get it loose, and get injured or crushed by the firewood. Logs are best handled by adults. Children who are not old enough nor developmentally-able enough to be left safely around a pile of logs or firewood, should not be left alone near such piles at or for any amount of time.
- Splinters happen and can be serious. Proper wood handling gloves usually take care of this risk with hands. Long sleeves and layered shirts, jackets, dungarees, socks, and sturdy work shoes are often helpful in preventing splinters in the spring, fall, and summer. Winter gear (snow pants or overalls, coat, boots, gloves, hats, etc.) help lower the risk of splinters in the winter.
- Pieces of sawdust, splinters, wood pieces, dirt, and more can get into the eyes of those working around firewood. Appropriate eye protection usually prevents this.
- Saw (arborist) pants and chaps are available locally and worth investing in by those who plan to use a chainsaw a lot.
- Chainsaws, mauls, axes, splitters, and other tools and machinery to process firewood come with warnings about what ages are considered safe to use the product. It’s a great idea to take these warnings seriously. Though a teen may be built like an adult, he or she likely lacks the full development of an adult, possibly making the use of the product a real risk to his or her safety.
- Don’t throw firewood carelessly. You can imagine what can happen to another by doing so.
- Don’t run, play, or roughhouse around woodpiles. Some years ago our two oldest sons, who were old enough to be out by the wood pile unattended, were carrying in firewood. As things with children often go, one boy hit the other with a snowball – and accidentally caused him to fall into the woodpile resulting in a bloody nose!
- Watch out for the temperature. Children can get overheated, frostbit, sunburned, and or dehydrated while doing wood chores. Being dressed appropriately for each season, having water on hand, and using sunscreen can help. It’s also important for children to take breaks if they are going to be working a few hours or more.
This list is not extensive, but might help get parents thinking about what they can do to prevent firewood chore injuries.
Preparing for, and getting through, an Interior Alaskan winter together, as a family, is often a very bonding, beneficial thing. Doing it safely, talking about safety issues while working together, and teaching our children how to get along safely in this beautifully wild place makes the bonds that much stronger.
© 2014, Wayne Hunter the Wood Cutter, All Rights Reserved