Chainsaw Safe Practice
CHAINSAW SAFETY – A BEGINNER’S GUIDE
As autumn moves into winter gardeners’ thoughts turn to chainsaws – either for tidying up round the garden or producing much needed firewood.
Chainsaws are one of those anomalous items which are potentially lethal but can be bought and used by virtually anyone without any training or checks, so we thought we would provide you with a quick guide to the correct and safe use of this enormously useful tool.
This is not intended as a guide to which chainsaw best suits your needs so we’ll assume you have chosen the correct model (check out our Beginners Guide to Chainsaws if you haven't).
If you are budgeting for a saw it is a very good idea to include PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) as part of your calculations. PPE may seem an unnecessary expense at the time but, the moment when something goes wrong is too late to have any regrets about not having invested in your wellbeing. As a bare minimum you should look at purchasing a specific chainsaw safety helmet; chainsaw head injuries are, unsurprisingly, often the most serious but a chainsaw helmet will mitigate the worst consequences. These helmets are effectively hard hats with the addition of a built in face guard and ear defenders, and are surprisingly cheap to buy.
Next on your list should be a pair of chainsaw trousers – these are designed to snag and jam the chainsaw blade should it come into contact with them. They cost upwards of eighty pounds a pair but could well save your life. While you can get specialist gloves and boots (and these are always a good idea) you can get away with a stout pair of gardening gloves and boots with a decent toe cap.
So, you have your safety kit and you have your shiny new chainsaw. First thing: read the instruction manual, and familiarise yourself with all the controls and operating procedures. It may seem obvious but you’d be amazed at how many questions we get asked that could have been answered by reading the instructions first! Pay particular attention to where both the fuel and chain oil go - it has been known for them to go in the wrong tanks..! With a rear-handled chainsaw, oil traditionally goes at the front and fuel goes at the rear).
Your new chainsaw (if purchased from us) will have been built, run up and checked. The correct chain tension would have been set but new chains will slacken after a couple of hours use and it’s important that you re-check and tighten the chain before using further.
The bottom of the trigger guard is flat, always start your chainsaw with your foot on this guard to keep the saw stable – never try and start the saw while it is held off the ground. Once the chainsaw is running check the chain brake mechanism mounted on the top of chainsaw – this is designed to stop the blade should the saw kick back up towards your face.
Keep the saw close to your body for stability and at about waist height – try not to use the saw at arm’s length and never above shoulder height. Keep a safe working area of a minimum of 5 metres around you and, if you’re working alone or remotely make sure you let someone know where you are and keep a mobile phone close at hand.
If you’re cutting logs for fire wood use a proper saw horse to hold the lengths of wood you are cutting and start off by cutting thinner logs until you gain a little confidence.
You will find that when you are using the top side of the bar, you have what is known as a pushing chain, with the chainsaw literally being pushed towards you. The conventional mode of using the bottom edge of the chainsaw bar pulls the saw away from you, this is known (yes, you guessed it) as a pulling chain.
As with most power tools common sense is often the key to safe use but, following the above advice should ensure your chainsawing is free from serious mishap.