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Chainsaw Safety

It might be stating the obvious, but taking the time to consider safety when using a chainsaw makes a lot of sense.

Most of us will have a chainsaw lurking somewhere in the tool shed. And if there’s not one in your shed, there’s probably one in your friend’s shed that you borrow when you’ve got some wood to clear up.

Used correctly, a chainsaw is a really useful tool, especially when clearing the trees in your garden, or chopping firewood. But most of us have also heard horror stories about nasty cuts or other injuries inflicted by a runaway chainsaw.

So it’s worth knowing a thing or two about chainsaw safety before you pull the starter cord.

These tips are useful guidelines to keep in mind before, during and after using a chainsaw. It’s always a good idea to refresh your memory on chainsaw safety - especially if it’s been a while since you last used one.

1. Know your capabilities

Match the size and type of your chainsaw to the job at hand. If you don’t feel that you have the skills for the job, it is best to get a professional to do it for you.

2. Check your chainsaw

Before you start up, check:

  • That all parts are lubricated
  • The chain is tensioned correctly
  • The teeth or cutting edges are sharp
  • The depth gauge settings are correct
  • All safety devices are in place and working
  • There are no loose parts or bolts.

If anything's missing or mal-adjusted, don't use the chainsaw. This is especially important if your chainsaw hasn't been used in a while.

3. Gear up

Safety gear can save your life, so take the time to put it on.

Typical chainsaw safety gear includes:

  • Protective gloves
  • Chaps
  • Helmet
  • Safety glasses
  • Grade 4 hearing protection
  • Solid (preferably steel-capped) boots.

4. Check your work area

Make sure your work area is free from tripping hazards and electrical cables. Also keep an eye out for anyone who could get in the way of your work area and check to make sure nothing is going to fall on you while you are working (like tree tops, etc). Don't forget to watch out for the weather & some conditions could make your work hazardous.

5. Never drop-start a saw

Use the cold start or warm start positions only. If you drop start a saw it could swing in an arc and cause a serious injury.

6. Watch for kickbacks

Kickback (when the guide bar is thrown back towards you in an uncontrolled arc) can happen at any time. Usually it occurs when the upper part of the bar nose contacts a solid object or light material, or it's pinched while cutting. It can also happen if your chain is loose or the depth gauge setting is too low. Most modern saws have a protective leather mitt attached to the front handle that can protect your hand and help prevent kickback. If your saw has one of these, make sure you use it correctly.

7. Never cut above shoulder height

This isn't a good idea because it increases the risk you'll lose your balance, you can't see what you're cutting and it makes the chainsaw more prone to kickback.

8. Hold and use the saw correctly

Keep two hands on the saw and hold it close to your body, with the body of the saw close to what you're cutting. Plant your feet firmly and slightly apart for balance. Never try to adjust your chain or machine while the engine is running.

9. Cut only one thing at a time

And remember, chainsaws are designed to cut wood & nothing else.

10. Maintain your saw

Good maintenance will extend the chainsaw's life and make it safer to use. When you finish a job make sure the air filters, sprocket cover and chain brake mechanism are free from sawdust; clean the guide bar groove; oil the holes and check everything is in place (as per the start-up routine & see tip 2).

There you have it. Ten simple tips that will help you make sure you and those around you are kept safe while you use your chainsaw.