Importance of Chainsaw Safety
A chainsaw is probably one of the most dangerous tools you are likely to store in you back shed, so it’s imperative that we consider that safe way to operate them before use. A chainsaw is a mix of rapidly moving parts and a whirling chain studded with razor-sharp teeth. The original chainsaw was designed specifically to cut through bone in hospitals. Today’s models are much more powerful and can easily remove an arm or a leg in an instant if you don’t pay attention to what you are doing. Using a chainsaw for an extended period is hard work and can cause fatigue which increases the operator’s risk of injury even further. Some people even remove chain depth gauges to increase cutting speed which increases the risk of chainsaw kickback, and other long-term health consequences from poor postures and high levels of vibration and noise. Never underestimate the danger of working with a chainsaw. Fortunately, the chainsaw itself is now being made with built-in features that can save your life and protect you from bodily injury. So, now let’s look at 10 of them that are available on most chainsaws. Some have additional ones as well. However, the ones, we will list are the most common.
For a quick reference check out this infographic which gives the 5 key Safety Features of a chainsaw
10 Safety Features on a Chainsaw
Chainsaws are made up of 5 main components, a motor and clutch, a bar where a chain rotates around and of course the chain with the teeth that do the actual cutting. Most of them you find on the market today are gasoline powered. Electrically powered ones are available both corded and battery powered. Each chainsaw is a little different from the rest. Placement of the various features and items can vary greatly between makers and even those made by the same company. Since safety is always, our first concern we will look at the most common ones found on chainsaws today.
Front Hand Guard
This fits on the front of the engine housing and it protects the hands from a chain that breaks and flies backward. It will also to a limited extent protect you from flying splinters as well.
Just what it implies, it stops the chain instantly. It operates while the motor is still running and lets you change position for cutting in a different position.
Again, this is self-explanatory. Like the sheath of a knife, it is used to cover the blade of the chainsaw when you are carrying it from place to place. A chainsaw’s teeth on a properly cared for chainsaw are razor sharp. If you or someone else bumps up against it can result in cuts and torn clothing.
Throttle Trigger Lockout
Is another feature that is designed to allow for control and safety? Releasing the trigger stops the blade immediately. This is the primary way to control the 3,000 – 7,000 RPM motor that drives the chain.
The inertia of a sudden upward movement of the chainsaw trigger this feature and it can be also engaged when the left-hand moves forward on the hand brake. So, the short of it is that you are protected from kickbacks and other unforeseen sudden movements including a fall.
If your chain breaks, even with PPE you can suffer injury. A chain catcher stops the chain from coming back at you. It is a simple device that you can see if you look at the underside of your chainsaw. It is an l shaped tapering piece that if the chain snaps the teeth will catch on it and prevent the chain from flying off at you.
Mounted in front of the front handle it activates when the operator rotates his left hand forward. This then stops the chain from moving. Often kickback guard is part of an inertia mechanism that activates if the left hand is out of position. The upward movement caused by kickback triggers the chain brake.
Gasoline engines put out smoke and sparks. You don’t want to catch a face full of them. You also don’t want sparks when saw dust is flying about. This makes for an explosive combination. The same is true when you are cutting a firebreak in the woods during a forest fire, as you do not want to complicate matters. The spark arrester comes in a number of forms and the simplest is a wire-mesh that stops sparks from making it past the muffler.
Rear Handle Guard
This provides the necessary control and lets you halt the motion of the chainsaw if it kicks. When you start the chainsaw, it also provides a way to insert your foot and start the chainsaw safely. What you see in the movies where the character airdrops the chainsaw while pulling the starter cord is a recipe for amputation of a limb if things go south. Placing the chainsaw on the ground and stepping into it is the recommend approach. See the safety videos that are in another section of this article
The ultimate safety feature, click it off and no spark can get to the motor. The motor stops and the chain’s movement are arrested. You also need it in the on position just to start things running.
Electric Chainsaw Safety
Just because its electrically powered doesn’t mean you have less to worry about. You have more. With the lighter weight, you forget how powerful the motors are and you can get careless. This can endanger your life. However, in addition, you have the same dangers of a regular chainsaw. Then, you can also add electrocution to the list as well. Cutting through your electrical cord is a quick way to meet your deity if you do not take the proper precautions. Ground Fault Interrupters (GFI) are a good idea and a second person managing your cord is another. Wearing the right type of protective gloves is also good idea along with your boots being insulated is also recommended.
Is an Electric Chainsaw more dangerous than a Gas Chainsaw?
Great question! Well, any chainsaw is dangerous: You can experience kickback (when the bar and chain fly off your cutting surface and take aim at your leg, chest or head), and you can suffer lost eyesight from kicked up debris – but an electric saw carries its own risks.
Electric saws channel a high-amperage electric current when they’re powered on. While it takes just 0.1 to 0.2 amps to kill a person, the average electric chainsaw pumps out anywhere from 9 to 20 amps and loads of volts (yikes). Factor in the whirling cutters, which are only being controlled by your stance and arm strength, and you can see how some serious accidents might result. So how can you insulate yourself (pun intended) from becoming the victim of an electric chainsaw injury? Keep reading for some simple but helpful operating tips.
Insulate, Separate, and Always Hook Up to a GFCI Outlet
Dangerous or fatal electric shock occurs when your body becomes the shortest route for electricity to travel within a circuit. The risk is exponentially increased when you come in contact with highly conductive grounds, like wire, rebar, water, or more importantly in this case, wet wood or mud. To prevent grounding your body when using your electric saw, it’s highly recommended you wear a pair of rugged, rubberized boots. Your boots’ soles should be free of metal riveting and you should check to make sure no metal bits or nails are buried in your soles beforehand.
A good set of heavy-duty, insulated work gloves will help further protect you from electric shock. You can pick up a decent pair for $25 to $50. It’s always a good idea to wear gloves when operating a chainsaw, so this should be a no-brainer. Lastly, if your saw is corded, keep an eye out. Keep the cord away from your blade, and have a buddy handle your cord if they’re available. Make sure you’re hooked up to a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter outlet. Known as GFCI or GFI, this type of outlet will trip your breaker and cut power if it detects electricity is being channeled through an alternative path – like your body or a source of water. Speaking of water…
Never Operate Your Electric Chainsaw in Wet Conditions
Obviously, working outdoors will inherently mean that you may be around sources of water, and that may be okay. Avoid the coy pond and creek and be mindful of where your power cord’s resting. If it’s raining, could rain, or just rained, don’t operate. It’s not worth the risk. Electric saws’ motors have exposed vents to dissipate heat – all it takes are a few drops of water to short your saw and give electricity an alternative path down your hand and through your chest.
Treat Your Electric Saw Like It’s Always On
Electric is a silent, smell-less, tasteless killer. It’s obvious when any old gas chainsaw’s running, thanks to loud combustion and exhaust. But an electric chainsaw gives away few hints that it’s powered up and ready to go. Treat your saw like it’s always on, and keep it separated from any conditions that might cause a short or shock – you have no reason not to be this cautious.
When it’s time to service your saw, make sure it’s unplugged if corded, or make sure the battery’s removed if cordless. Give the operating handle or power buttons a few presses (in a safe manner) just to be sure. Once you’re done cutting or servicing your saw, make sure it’s dry, unplugged with the battery removed, and store it in a dry place. Like we said earlier, it takes just a few drops of water to cause a short and dangerous electrical shock when you go to cut that first log.
Essential Chainsaw Safety gear
Just having a chainsaw with all the latest safety features doesn’t mean you’re now safe from injuries. You need to wear your own safety gear also know as Personal Protective Equipment or PPE. In medieval days of old Japan, a Samurai unlike the depictions in the movies wore full armor when they took the field of battle. The Samurai sword was and still is the sharpest length of metal ever seen. So, when facing someone using such an instrument you need to have the right equipment in order to survive.
Your chainsaw is many times more powerful and would shred a Samurai’s armor as if it were paper. So, what do you think would happen if you slip? This is why the government, industry and private researchers perform an ongoing search for new materials that can protect you. There are some amazing fabrics and stuff out there that can stop a chainsaw in its tracks without you losing an arm, leg, and your face. Let’s now break safety gear down for you item by item and explain their use.
Protective Chainsaw Suit
A full jumpsuit-type protective suit is often the first choice for the pro that uses a chainsaw in their daily activities. It is often mandated by company policy, as it cuts on insurance premiums and insurance companies are the big kid on the block, as they don’t want to payout on a policy covering the loss of an arm, leg, and eye. It also provides total coverage that just chaps, chainsaw safety pants, and gloves don’t cover. The major drawback of these suits of body armor are that they can be hot during summer work, they can be uncomfortable and restrict movement somewhat. However, protective gear will save your life.
Chainsaw Safety Gloves
Hand injuries, along with leg injuries are the most common type of injury chainsaw uses befall. This being the case it is so critical that you are always using appropriate gloves that can help your hands from being squashed by wood or cut by the sharp teeth on the chainsaw blade. Good gloves can also help reduce the vibration your hands and arm feels while using your saw, which can make a real difference.
Chainsaw Safety Chaps and Pants
If you are working aloft or in hot climes, safety chaps and pants will save you from losing a leg or bleeding out before help can arrive. You will see demos in our video section where a live chainsaw goes up against the materials and though the clothing is unusable the person inside is unharmed. The Late Show once had a demo where the host let a chainsaw wielding guest have a go at him. The material was shredded but the star within was still able to crack jokes. You might be more in the mood to hoist a few cold ones when yours keeps your leg from coming off. The most common area people are injured when using a chainsaw is from their thighs to feet, safety chaps will help protect you from injuries over most of this part of your body.
Chainsaw Safety Boots
A lot of chainsaw work involves logs that are on their side. Things wiggle and wobble so; many use their foot to hold things still while they work. You know what can happen next. Safety boots need to be tough leather and steel capped or steel toed and have a high impact rating, ideally you can get specific Chainsaw protective boots which are designed to guard against foot injuries from chainsaws.
Chainsaw Safety Helmet
After you’ve seen the videos on “Kickback”, do you really want to be using a chainsaw without proper headgear? They keep your brains inside your noggin instead of letting them spray all over the work area. Anyone who uses a chainsaw without headgear should be banned from working with them in this writer’s opinion.
Do I need safety glasses too?
Yes, sawdust and splinters can get past the safety shield. It might be thrown in your face by your chainsaw or from someone else’s working next to you. You only get two eyes at birth and the technology to build a Bionic Man isn’t here yet. So, there is no replacement for what nature provides. A splinter can travel at the speed of Cub’s Pitcher’s fastball and you can be blinded in an instant.
Chainsaw Safety Training Available
One of the most important things for you to do in order to be properly trained on safety and operation is to get educated. We have a number of videos in a later section that covers this but there is no substitute for getting hands on training with the supervision of someone who knows how to do it right. Many home supply centers and hardware outlets will run free classes on the proper use and safety of chainsaws. This is especially true up in the Northwest part of the country where logging is still a major industry. They are also held in the “Tornado Belt” in the Mid-West. Community colleges offer classes as well. In rural areas, the County Farm Bureau and other state agencies, as well as OSHA, have materials that you can use.
This is just a sample of what you can find from online sources:
Checklists are another way to do things in the proper manner and order. We will repeat some of the information in a later section of this article as it pertains to a number of areas in chainsaw usage. We have given you links to some sample ones that cover everything from oiling the chain to what PPE you should be wearing and points you to the specifications and the why for them as well. https://sussexpast.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Chainsaw-Safety-Checklist.pdf
UDEMY has a number of chainsaw safety training courses you can take as well.
The Husqvarna website is also a useful source of info also.
In the next section, we have a number of videos that go into extensive detail on not only safety but also the care and feeding of your chainsaw as well.
Helpful Chainsaw safety training videos
One of the most detailed videos on the dangers of kickback by Husky. You see where the Kickback Zone is and how to avoid it. Along with other valuable tips on safety equipment, you will learn from the experts at Husqvarna the ins and out of their chainsaws and the many safety features built-in to them.
Danger! Chain Saw Safety
This is a chainsaw safety video made by the Washington State Dept. of Labor. Improper work practices are the #1 cause of chainsaw accidents. In this video, you will learn what not to do with your chainsaw. You will see how normal activities can result in hazardous consequence when you are carrying or working with a chainsaw. One movement of inattention could cripple or maim you for life.
Chainsaw Safety, Operation & Maintenance
Over an hour of information on how to properly use and care for your STIHL chainsaw, STIHL is one of the leading makers of chainsaws and this video you will see the similarities between their chainsaws and a Husky. While both are chainsaws do the same thing and many of the features mirror each other. However, you need to be familiar with each specifically in order to ensure your safety and those around you while operating one.
How to work with a chainsaw – Husqvarna chainsaw safety video
In this video teaching, you learn how to operate your chainsaw. You will learn various cutting techniques and especially safety. You will find that the video will show you the things you may already know. Watch it and see how some of the material already learned by you may be done wrong by you. Now, you will see them done in a step-by-step manner that focuses you on what you need to be aware of. Since most of us run on habit and you need to build the right ones to help keep you safe, so, this video is ideal for the veteran and the newbie alike.
Safe Chainsaw Use — Kickback https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2arMD1ITJ4 This is the condensed version of the complete on-line version of http://youtube/HBEUYs6I6vU Earlier, we have talked about kickback. It still needs to be reiterated, as this is the most dangerous accident that can occur with a chainsaw. It only takes a blink of an eye to go from an ordinary day’s routine to a life-threatening event. You can lose an arm, a leg or harm someone nearby. You will see a re-enactment of a fatal kickback and you will see how it can happen so fast you don’t have time to react. So, you need to watch this video to completion to re-enforce on your mind and Psyche why you should use your chainsaw with mindfulness instead of mindless habit.
Why to Wear Chainsaw Safety Chaps
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKv2CNCgcAs PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is something you cannot take for granted. It is the one thing that stands between you and death or disfiguring and crippling accidents with a chainsaw. If you are an SF fan, you may have heard of the famous Ciaphas Cain stories. The title character uses a chainsaw-like sword to hack and dismember his opponents in a graphic manner. Now you have the real thing in your hands and it will do what is depicted in the novels as well. However, in most cases, it happens due to carelessness and a lapse of attention. PPE is there to prevent this and you need to understand it fully and to make it second nature to use when you are working with chainsaws.
Chainsaw Safety https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhMWZQ_d_U8 Working in the real world is different from in a classroom. This is why this video is a good one to let you get a quick rundown of the safety gear you need to work with a chainsaw safely from a person who lives, breathes, and eats with chainsaws. It only takes one close brush with a chainsaw across your boot to convince you that safety gear is the only thing out there that protects you.
Chainsaw Safety Tips – STIHL & Interlink Training https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KcoN0mNivaI Another good video from STIHL, which again goes over the things you need to be watching out for when using a chainsaw. It is made to show you how powerful a chainsaw really is and it can lop off an arm or leg much in the same way it can chew through a tree limb. Watch it and get pointers for you use of your chainsaw and use them to create a checklist to use for yourself or give to those you have working around you. You can find such an example here. https://www.scribd.com/document/123945046/Chainsaw-Safety-Checklist You may not need to make yours so encompassing, however. You need only use the pieces that are pertinent to your needs.
Oregon presents: A serious look at chainsaw safety (ft chainsaw Charlie)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7o2hlMDUBdM Oregon is where logging is still king and the Spotted Owl issue may have curbed it to a lower level. It is still a place where the chainsaw is a common item to be seen in the back of pickups, SUVs and even carried in public. Therefore, people there take safety seriously and in this video, you will see it being used in the field by a pro who knows what he is doing. He is not Factory Rep. He is a man who knows his way around a chainsaw the way you know how to park a car. So, learn from him, use your chainsaw in a responsible manner, and get your work done fast and efficiently and in a safe manner as well.
Safe Chainsaw Handling
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2-CQDStgiY First off, you are shown how to pick the right chainsaw for the job. How to do a once over on it to ensure everything is ship-shape. In the NAVY, they use checklists extensively for everything and you might want to follow in the footsteps of Submariners, Pilots, and the NAVY S.E.A.L.s who follow them to make sure the mission is completed with no casualties. https://sussexpast.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Chainsaw-Safety-Checklist.pdf You learn in this video how to do it right the first time and why you better do it this way or suffer the consequences. The proper use of PPE that protects you from harm, you will learn a bit on Preventative Maintenance that keeps your chainsaw running smoothly. Due to the fact, that a faulty chainsaw is as dangerous as a person lighting matches to look inside their car’s gas tank at a filling station.
Chainsaws are some of the most useful a versatile tools on earth. They cut firewood in the age of solar, nuclear, and wind power. They are also there when you need them in a case of a natural calamity like hurricanes, tornadoes, and fallen trees. Nevertheless, they are some of the most dangerous tools to use because of the great power and the uncertainty of working with clearing land, logs, and other materials. Our purpose today was to give you the information from many sources on the web that you can turn to learn everything you need about safety, PPE, and we have included links to information from the experts who can help with all of the above. With this knowledge in hand you now, know where to go to get the training you need to become proficient with your chainsaw. It doesn’t matter if you are a Lumberjack, First Responder or just someone who needs a chainsaw to clear away a fallen tree and cut firewood for the fireplace or wood-burning stove. Your safety should always come first and we believe the materials you have found here will help you toward your goal for the safe use of your chainsaw.