Chainsaw Safety Tips

Chainsaw safety is no accident.

It is said that "familiarity breeds contempt." It also breeds carelessness. In my case, familiarity with a dangerous tool, coupled with haste, led to carelessness, injury, a trip to the hospital, surgery and resultant three weeks off of work. And I was lucky. And, while three weeks off of work may sound like fun, it's not when you're confined to a chair and out of the garden!

It wasn't the large trees that I was cutting that got me, it was the little ones. The injury to my leg came from using the chainsaw as a weed whacker, rather than using it properly and with respect. I won't go into the gory details. Suffice it to say that the accident, like all accidents, happened in a split-second of carelessness.

Here then are some basic safety rules, most of which I have followed faithfully for years of injury-free chainsaw use-

  1. Use all chainsaw safety equipment. Hardhat, ear protectors, face and eye protection, gloves, leg protectors and sturdy steel toe boots with non-skid soles should be used at all times. Long pants and tight fitting garments are also recommended. If you rent a saw, most reputable rental companies will provide you with these basic items. None of these safety items are for sissies, rather it is the height of stupidity not to use any of them
  2. Make sure that you understand everything about the operation of the saw. Read the manual if you own it. Do not leave the rental agency if you have any questions at all about the safe use and operation of the saw, the only stupid question is the un-asked one.
  3. Properly maintain the saw. The chain should be sharpened after every use and kept at the proper tension. Saw chains stretch and need to be adjusted periodically. Know how to properly perform each task before you use the saw. Most newer chain saws come with a chain brake. Make sure it is working properly.
  4. Practice safe fueling techniques, starting the saw at least ten feet from the fueling area.
  5. Never walk with a running chainsaw.
  6. Use all chainsaw safety equipment!
  7. Like any cutting tool, cut away from your body.
  8. Be sure of your footing, especially when cutting trees on a slope, always stand uphill from the tree.
  9. Make sure the area around the tree that you are felling is free of debris; make sure you have a safe exit from the direction the tree is supposed to fall. Plan your escape. Knowing proper felling techniques is essential to safe operation of a chainsaw.
  10. Listen to and watch the tree. When it starts to fall, shut off the saw and move back quickly.
  11. When cutting limbs of a tree that has been felled, be aware the limb or trunk may be under tension and can spring back without warning
  12. Never let the tip of a running chainsaw come in contact with a stationary object such as a branch, tree trunk or the ground.
  13. The saw, if it "kicks back," will rotate on the plane of the bar. Keep your body to the left side of the plane of rotation
  14. Never operate a chain saw in a tree. If you feel the need to do this, you should leave the tree felling to experts. The danger of loss to life, limb and property is not worth taking the chance.
  15. Never get too cocky. A chainsaw is a powerful fast moving tool that can inflict a lot of damage in a few seconds.
  16. Use all chainsaw safety equipment!
  17. Plan ahead and try to foresee the bad things that can and do happen.

The above suggested rules are not intended to be a complete listing of the good things that you need to do to prevent bad things from happening to you or others. They are also not to be construed to be instructions for the use of a chainsaw or for felling trees. Felling trees is a highly dangerous activity that can and does result in serious injury and death. Like any other dangerous activity, use common sense. Leave the work to professionals if you have any question as to your ability to perform the task safely and responsibly.

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