Chainsaw Safety


Any tool powerful enough to slice through wood can do the same to human flesh, so chainsaw injuries are often serious.  Before you operate a chainsaw, make sure you read and understand the operatorís manual and make sure you have the right chainsaw for the job. The instruction manual should describe the sawís capabilities.  If you rent a saw, be sure to get a demonstration of how it works, including its safety features.  Then make sure your saw is sharp, properly tensioned, and in good condition.

When youíre going to use a chain saw, wear protective clothing, including a hard hat, safety goggles, gloves to give you a good grip, hearing protection, steel-toed shoes with non-slip soles, and trim-fitting clothes that wonít get caught in the chain.

Start your chainsaw according to the manualís direction.  Clear the work area so the chain wonít touch anything but the wood you want to cut, and place the saw on a level surface; never rest a saw on your leg or drop-start it.  Stand to the side of the saw so you wonít follow the cut-through into your leg, and stand on the uphill side of your work so it wonít roll into you.  Hold the saw parallel to the ground with your left arm straight for better control and to reduce the chance of the saw pushing into you if it kicks back.

Keep both hands on the saw while it's running.  Work slowly, and donít rush.  Let the chainsaw do the work; never force it.  Avoid cutting above mid-chest height.  Never attempt to cut a tree with a diameter greater than the length of the chainsaw blade, and watch for branches that may spring back as you cut.  Always be aware of what is in the sawís downward path after the cut. Itís a good idea to take frequent breaks from cutting so you donít operate the saw when youíre tired.   

Although some chainsaw injuries are caused by operator error, kickback is the greatest cause of chainsaw injuries.  In kickback, the upper chain "grabs" the wood or an obstruction and forces the saw backward, causing the operator either to lose control of the saw or to lose his or her balance, bringing the saw into contact with the body.  Some chainsaws have chain brakes that are designed to instantly stop the saw after kickback.  While these donít prevent kickback, they can reduce the severity of injury from it.

Carry the saw below your waist, with the engine off and guide bar pointed to the rear, so if you trip, the saw drops behind you. 

If your saw is electric, make sure you use an extension cord thatís approved for outdoor use and donít use the saw in a damp environment.  Fuel gasoline-powered chainsaws outdoors, being careful not to overfill or spill the fuel.  Never refuel a hot saw.  Let it cool down first, and have a fire extinguisher nearby.

Itís dangerous to work alone with a chainsaw.  Have a companion within calling distance, but keep bystanders and helpers at a safe distance from operation so that they will not be injured by the saw, flying chips, sawdust or by what youíre working on.

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