Chainsaws are an important tool in any homeowner’s tool shed. From trimming trees to clearing fallen branches, there is no quicker way to cut through thick branches or take down a tree.
In fact, you won’t get a tool with more power per inch than a chainsaw. But all that power comes responsibility.
The chain of the chainsaw moves anywhere from fifty to even eighty miles per hour at full throttle, cutting through the thickest branches with ease. Just imagine what this tool can do to your fingers or toes after a small moment of distraction.
Unfortunately, using a chainsaw is one of the most dangerous activities a homeowner can take on. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), reports that chainsaws cause over thirty thousand injuries annually.
Before using any power tool, it is the smart play to understand what precautions are needed to keep yourself safe. From safety gear to chainsaw maintenance tips, follow these guidelines to help prevent accidents.
7 Tips for Chainsaw Safety
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration from the Department of Labor states that the left leg and left hand are the most common sites for chainsaw injuries. These injuries occur from losing control of the saw when powering it up or fatigue during use.
You can reduce the risk of these accidents by understanding the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and proper chainsaw safety and operation. Follow these seven ways to use a chainsaw safely and to prevent accidents.
1. Wear the Right Clothing and Protective Gear
The first safety precaution you should consider before you even think about getting the chainsaw out of the garage is wearing proper protective gear and clothing. The safety gear helps to prevent or lessen the severity of accidents.
Safety helmet. You should wear a hardhat when using a chainsaw to protect you against kickback injury and flying debris.
Ear protection. Chain sawing produces deafening noise that exceeds safety recommendations. Always wear ear protection to prevent damaging your hearing ability.
Heavy-duty Gloves. Thick gloves are essential in protecting the hands from injury and debris in case of a slip or chain break. A good set of gloves will also give you a better grip on the chainsaw.
Protective eyewear. You should always wear safety goggles or a face shield when using a power saw. Goggles are the minimum eye protection you should wear, but a full face shield is even better to protect the rest of your face from flying objects.
Heavy boots. Rigid and heavy work boots are critical when using a chainsaw because things tend to fall when you cut them. 😀 And if you drop a log on your foot, that going to hurt!
Hard rigid boots can also protect your feet in the event you lose control of the tool and drop the chainsaw. Steel-toed boots are the best and offer excellent protection.
Protective chaps. This is useful in preventing thigh injuries while you are holding a running chain saw.
All clothing should be tight fitting. Loose sleeves, danging shoelaces, or even a bandana can easily get tangled in the chain and lead to disaster.
2. Proper Chainsaw Maintenance
Proper maintenance of your chainsaw plays a significant role in the efficient use of the chainsaw. Before every use, you should do a full check of the chainsaw, including oil level, replacing the filter, checking and adjusting the chain tension, etc.
Clean your chainsaw regularly, keeping the chain well sharpened to avoid having to use extra force, prevent kickbacks, and keep it operating efficiently.
3. Read the Owner’s manual
All chainsaws come with a set of included instructions from the manufactures. The manuals are included to guide you on maintenance, safety precautions, and use associated with your specific chainsaw.
If by chance you lost track of your user’s manual, most can be found online on the manufacturer’s website. It takes just a few minutes each time to maintain the chainsaw, but in the long run, it might save your life.
4. Avoiding The Kickback Zone
The kickback zone refers to the top half of the tip of the chainsaw bar. If this area hits a branch or the log pinches the blade across this section when the chain is moving, it will reverse and kick up towards your body.
Although most of the current chainsaws come equipped with a brake that will stop the chain if this happens. It is still important not to watch this area.
The safest option is always being aware of the risk and avoiding the kickback zone. Best practices are to wrap your left-hand thumb around the front handle while cutting as shown in the picture below. This will allow you to keep the saw under control in case the kickback occurs.
5. Maintain A Strong Stance When Using The Chainsaw
One of the simplest ways to prevent injuring yourself when using a chainsaw is to always stand in a way that gives you more control. The best position to stand in when using your chainsaw is the boxer’s stance with one leg slightly in front of the other. This position will offer you balance and better control
If you need to cut lower, you should do so by bending your knees in a squatting position instead of bending from the waist to avoid hurting your back. This position will also help you avoid the kickback zone. Holding the chainsaw closer to your body will give you even more balance.
6. Plan Out Your Cutting Strategy
Take time to plan your cuts before starting. For example, if you are cutting a tree, you should take time to size it up, envision every cut, and where every section of the tree falls before you begin to cut.
You want to ensure that open ground is available wherever the tree falls. With a solid plan for approaching your cuts, you can minimize the risk of anything going wrong when you start working.
7. Take A Chainsaw Safety Course
Finally, taking a chainsaw safety course to learn the best practices for operating a chainsaw can go a long way in preventing chainsaw accidents.
Cutting timber and felling trees with a chainsaw is one of the most dangerous tasks anybody can undertake. So it is important that anybody, including casual users, take a free online chainsaw safety course at the very minimum.
Where to Find Chainsaw Safety Classes
You can find several online safety courses such as the ones offered through Safe Training North America or at OSHA Campus 360 Training.
But a better way to really learn to use the tool is with an in-person class that includes a demonstration as well as hands-on training.
Community colleges, local universities, equipment manufacturers, US Forestry services and private companies all offer basic chainsaw safety courses.
Here are a few examples of the types of safety courses offered:
- Purdue University offers a Trees Fall for Me, Safely course that is free for students.
- Stihl offers training for their distributors who help to train consumers. Stihl also offers Lumberjack Athlete Trainig which is very cool.
- The Ohio Forestry Service has a CSAW program which is Chainsaw Safety Awareness that Works that offers two certification levels.
- Game of Logging is designed for professional loggers and offers four levels of basic safety training as well as many specialty course such as storm damage training and ATV & Gentle Logging Training
- The North Carolina Cooperative Extension Office offers a Tree Cleanup and Chainsaw Safety Class that covers the basics of chainsaw safety in addition to the PPE you should wear and other problems to watch out for. The class are free of charge.
To find a chainsaw safety class in your area, start with your local college or university to see what they have to offer. Next, check out your local Cooperative Extension Office, such as the one referred to in North Carolina above. This is the government agency set up to improve the quality of its citizen’s lives through education and community programs.
As you have seen, using a chainsaw safely isn’t too complicated. All it takes is a few thoughtful precautions to lower the risks of accidents. The safety tips we have reviewed are a good start to keep you safe and prevent an accident.
So, before you fire up that chainsaw be sure to read the manual, put on your tree trimming gear, and partner up with a buddy whenever possible.