Sugar bush safety: take care to ensure a sweet maple syrup season

Safely stirring the syrup. Expositor file photo

MANITOULIN—The maple syrup season is upon us, with many producers having already tapped their trees, waiting for the sweet stuff to come dripping in.

While the sugar bush may seem like a safe environment, it can prove dangerous if producers don’t take the necessary precautions to ensure their safety.

Todd Leuty with OMAFRA’s orchard horticulture and forestry division explains in a Ontario Maple Syrup Production Report, “While working in the sugar bush, maple syrup producers should take all necessary safety precautions to ensure the risk of injury is minimized, such as: Have a daily plan to let family members and other workers know exactly where you are working, and when you intend to be home.”

“Wear appropriate protective equipment including a helmet, hearing and eye protection,” he adds. “Wear certified protective clothing and footwear when using a chainsaw. Take a chainsaw safety course. Watch out for hazards in the bush, such as dead trees, hanging limbs and any trees showing weakness above ground.”

“Tractors or other heavy equipment should have roll-over protection and impact frames installed over the driver,” explains Mr. Leuty. “Wear the seatbelt. Also, never work alone in the sugar bush, especially when using chainsaws. Have cell phones or a radio with you to call for help if necessary. If you need to call 911 in an emergency, know your exact address in advance.”

Marion Fowler of Little Current shared a story with the paper of when her late husband was injured in the sugar bush.

“Gerry was up at our camp in Maple Lake by himself when he got burned,” said Ms. Fowler. “We were always careful up there, but this time he was transferring sap into the pan and burnt his hand. He said it happened quickly. He ran out and put it in the snow.”

Ms. Fowler said that Mr. Fowler was lucky enough to be able to drive himself to the hospital, but it was a bad situation. This story happened before the time of cellphones, but stresses the importance of having a cell phone or radio with you in the bush.

Evaporators on the Island are mainly wood fueled, which can lead to flying embers and the possibility of fires in the sap house.

Be sure when you are boiling sap to keep your work area free of clutter and wear proper clothing, such as cotton, to avoid burns and keep a fire extinguisher in the sap house.

Following these simple safety tips will help ensure the safety of you and your family this sugar season.