Operating and handling a chainsaw is serious and can be dangerous if care is not taken. Chains typically move at speeds of 55-60 miles per hour (around 25 meters per second). Though the teeth on a chain are designed not to cut but to remove material, accidental contact with chains can result in serious injury to the operator.
There are three lines of defense for a chainsaw operator. These are education, technique, and personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE is there to protect the operator if the first two lines of defense fail.
Chainsaw safety and protection involves proper education on operating a chainsaw, its do’s and don’ts. The right technique and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). Since the hazards associated with a chainsaw are not limited to cuts, just wearing gloves is not enough. Chainsaw PPE include the following things:
- A hard helmet/hat for head protection
- Mufflers for ear protection
- Goggles/safety glasses for eye protection
- Chaps for leg protection
- Special footwear for foot protection
- Gloves for hand protection
- High visibility vest when working in an urban area
Chainsaw operating knowledge and technique are essential too. Chainsaw education includes:
- Knowledge of work area safety
- Knowledge of chainsaw dos and don’ts
Chainsaw operating techniques include:
- Properly holding your chainsaw
- Techniques for reducing kickback
- 1 Chainsaw PPE: What should your wear when operating your chainsaw?
- 2 Should you wear a face mask when using a chainsaw?
- 3 What is the difference between Type A and Type C chainsaw trousers?
- 4 Knowledge of Work Area Safety:
- 5 Some Basic Dos and Don’ts:
- 6 Chainsaw Operating Techniques:
Chainsaw PPE: What should your wear when operating your chainsaw?
Knowing your chainsaw and the dos and don’ts of working with a chainsaw are extremely important, but you can never be too careful. Because of their sharp teeth and extremely high operating speeds, even the most minor carelessness can make these useful tools lethal weapons. So whenever operating your chainsaw, make sure to have the essential chainsaw PPE on. Some of the essential chainsaw PPE will be discussed here. You can find these at local hardware stores or purchase them online:
● Head Protection Equipment:
Tree fellers are constantly faced with the danger of falling objects. Heavy branches and things dropped by other operators falling on your head can cause serious injury. Injuries of the head and skull, even when not apparent, can be extremely dangerous. For these reasons, tree fellers need to wear a hard helmet as soon as they step out of their truck in the working area. Safety helmets usually have the manufacturer’s name and/or identification number, helmet type or class, head size, and “ANSI Z89.1” printed on the inside. The ANSI number indicates that the helmet meets the safety requirements put in place by the American National Standards Institute.
The best practice is to wear a helmet with a side protection and chin strap. Helmets with face shields are even better because they protect the operator’s face from wood chips and debris. Furthermore, it would be best if you always examined your helmet for damage before putting it on.
● Ear Protection Equipment:
Noise is measured in decibels (dB). A noise level above 85 dB is considered harmful for the human ear. A conversation is usually about 60 dB, sound from a vacuum cleaner is about 70 dB, whereas sound from a lawnmower is about 90 dB. Chainsaws produce 110 dB of noise which can be extremely harmful if hearing protection is not used. Therefore, chainsaw operators must work with their earmuffs on.
All hearing protectors come with a noise reduction rating (NRR). The NRR is the decibel reduction provided by hearing protection. A chainsaw operator needs an NRR of 25 dB to reduce the noise below the 85 dB limit.
Also, keep in mind that you don’t need to overprotect your ears. The best practice is to use hearing protection that provides adequate but not excessive protection. This is because you need to hear other people, trees cracking, warning signals, and machine sounds while operating your chainsaw.
● Eye Protection Equipment:
The operator’s face and eyes are soft targets for flying wood chips, and debris ripped out by a chainsaw. While a face shield with a mesh screen protects the face, it usually isn’t enough to protect your eyes. Eyeglasses or sunglasses aren’t adequate either. This is because flying objects can easily shatter the lenses of regular glasses, adding plastic or glass to the list of potentially dangerous projectiles.
Chainsaw operators should select eye protection equipped with UV protection and fog resistance. We recommend an ANSI rating of “Z87.1”. The ANSI number is printed on all approved eyewear. If you wear prescription eyewear, go for safety glasses and goggles that can fit over your prescription eyewear. Or you could get prescription safety eyewear customized specially for you.
● Leg Protection Equipment:
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) requires all chainsaw operators to use chainsaw leg protection pants or chaps. This is because nearly 36,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries from chainsaws, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control.
Chainsaw chaps and pants are specially designed with layers of tightly packed plastic fibers. When the chainsaw makes contact with the chaps, these strong fibers do not break. Instead, they get pulled up into the chain and bring the rotating wheel sprockets to a standstill within one rotation. This means that the chainsaw is stopped immediately as it comes in contact with the chaps, and the operator is saved from injury.
Using chainsaw chaps is not complicated at all. Make sure all buckles are fastened when using chaps, and keep your chaps snug. Your chaps should cover the full length of your thigh to two inches below the top of your boot.
When felling trees or ripping logs with a chainsaw, boots with a hard composite or steel toe and a nonslip sole are the safest choices. Tree climbers usually prefer lighter footwear. Remember to break new boots in before you start working in them.
● Gloves/Hand Protection:
It is generally a good idea to use gloves when operating a chainsaw. Gloves dampen the vibrations from the saw and protect your hands from minor cuts.
● High Visibility Vest:
If your worksite is in or near an area with moving traffic, you are required to wear a high visibility safety vest. It is also a good idea to wear a high-visibility vest when working in the woods during hunting season.
Should you wear a face mask when using a chainsaw?
When ripping wood with a high-speed chainsaw, you are exposed to flying debris and wood chips that can be quite sharp. These can harm your face and especially your eyes. You can use separate goggles and facemask when operating your saw, but an even better option would be to use a chainsaw helmet system. These systems include a hard hat for your head and a transparent face shield to protect your face and eyes.
What is the difference between Type A and Type C chainsaw trousers?
Type A and Type C trousers differ mainly in the surface they cover. Since type A trousers are intended to be used by ground workers, they only cover the front surface of the legs. On the other hand, type C trousers cover the entire surface of the legs, i.e., both front and back. Since each trouser serves a certain task better than the other, we recommend you analyze your needs before you start shopping for chainsaw trousers.
Properly worn PPE can be life-saving because of the hazards associated with a high-speed tool such as a chainsaw. Chainsaws are professional tools and should not be operated by people with no knowledge of handling them. PPE will serve as your last line of defense in case of a mishandling hazard, but it is the proper handling knowledge and technique that will prevent the mishaps from occurring.
Knowledge of Work Area Safety:
It is essential to analyze work area safety before you start working with your chainsaw. This is to protect yourself and others from any accidents.
The following points are included in work area safety:
- Keep others safe: Make sure there are no animals or unconcerned people in the work area. When felling trees, make sure that there are no people or animals in a radius of at least two to three lengths.
- Weather: We would strongly advise you not to work in adverse weather conditions, such as heavy rain, high-speed winds, lightning, snow, etc.
- Check for hazards: Before you start felling trees, check for potential hazards in the work area. Potential hazards may include electricity or telecommunication cables that could be destroyed by falling branches and trunks.
- Escape route: Always have an escape route planned to the side and rear of potential danger areas.
Some Basic Dos and Don’ts:
Here are some basic dos and don’ts of chainsaw handling:
- Correct height: Do not operate a chainsaw above shoulder height or above ground level, for example, in a tree or off a ladder, unless you are qualified and experienced to do so.
- Available help: It’s never a bad idea to have someone within calling distance. Never work alone while using a chainsaw.
- Clear state of mind: Do not operate your chainsaw under the influence of alcohol or drugs or when you are tired and sleepy. Make sure you are fully attentive when operating your saw.
- Alertness: When you get tired of using your chainsaw, have a rest – you need to stay alert with a chainsaw and be in control.
- The right tool for the right job: Your Chainsaw is designed to cut wood – do not try to cut any other material with a chainsaw. Do not use a chainsaw guide bar for levering or digging. Please match the size of your chainsaw and bar with the job at hand. Don’t use a small chainsaw and bar to fell a large tree.
- Chainsaw condition: Do not, under any condition, operate a chainsaw that is damaged, not adjusted according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, incorrectly assembled, or if there are some missing parts.
- Adjust your Chainsaw: Except for fine-tuning the carburetor, never adjust your chainsaw’s parts while the motor is running. Always turn off your chainsaw when handling/adjusting the chain, guide bar, or sprocket.
Chainsaw Operating Techniques:
You should have at least the basic knowledge of these techniques before you start working with a chainsaw:
● Properly holding your chainsaw:
To properly hold your chainsaw, place your left hand on the front handle and ensure the handle is gripped between the thumb and finger, with your thumb under the front handle. Use the mitt if fitted. Grip the rear handle with your right hand, with your index finger on the throttle trigger.
Maintain complete control of the chainsaw while the motor is running by keeping a firm grip with both hands.
● Reducing Kickback:
Proper operating techniques like those mentioned below can reduce the likelihood of kickback:
- Firmly hold your chainsaw with both hands.
- Make sure your left thumb is wrapped firmly under the front handle and in the mitt if there is one fitted on your chainsaw.
- Be aware of the guide bar nose location at all times when operating your chainsaw. Ensure that the guide bar nose does not come in contact with any object.
With this basic knowledge, you should start with easier and safer tasks and slowly move to difficult tasks as you gain more experience.