Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Chainsaw Safety

Chainsaws are a powerful tool, but like all powerful tools, there are inherent dangers. With tornado season in full swing, and hurricane season following right on its heels, a safety lesson for the mighty saw is in order.

Chainsaws are primarily thought of as a tool for gathering firewood, and that's right in line with their original use. It is a task they perform beautifully, and that alone would make them a valid prepping tool to consider, but their value increases by leaps and bounds when viewed as a debris clearing implement. Major storms knock down trees and poles regularly, blocking roads and other access and making a general mess, and a key tool in clearing all of this debris is the chainsaw, which allows large wooden debris to be broken down into manageable pieces.

With this usefulness comes a price, however; the manner in which a chainsaw operates makes it a dangerous item, and steps need to be taken to ensure user safety. Chainsaws require the use of a full set of Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE.

Personal Protective Equipment
Eyes: Saws produce lots of flying bits. Safety glasses are needed at a bare minimum, and many professionals wear both glasses and a full face shield to protect themselves.

Ears: Chainsaws are extremely loud, and typically run for hours. The same ear protection used for shooting guns or running a jackhammer is needed to protect your hearing running a saw.

Head: If you're cutting something with the potential to hit your head, you need some kind of hard hat. Concussions are no fun, so take steps to avoid them. A face shield is also recommended because it will protect you from whatever the chainsaw kicks back.

A good all-in-one piece of safety gear is the TR Industrial Forestry Safety Helmet and Hearing Protection System, which protects your entire head.


Gloves: Every hazard to your hands is present. The potential for cuts, pinches, and abrasions is high, as well as vibration from the saw. Wear a sturdy pair of leather gloves at all times.

Clothing: Protective clothing is also important. Long pants and long sleeved shirts will prevent cuts and scrapes. Sturdy boots will prevent slips, ankle injuries, and other foot-related injuries. Chainsaw chaps are also highly recommended, and may save your leg or your life in the event of a mishap.

Best Safety Practices
  • Take regular breaks where you turn off the saw, drink water, and let your body recover for a few minutes. 
  • Whenever possible, clear rocks and other small debris away from your cutting area. 
  • Keep other people clear of any point that your saw could reach. Check the material you're cutting to ensure that you won't hit any nails, spikes, or other metal objects. These can break your chain or come flying loose, and can be fatal.
  • OSHA has a full safety card here. It's a good quick reference read. 
  • Stihl, one of the world's foremost chainsaw makers, publishes their full safety manual in .pdf form here.

Chainsaws are a mighty tool. Respect them and be safe with them, and you can get a lot of work done quickly.


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