Improper chainsaw use can lead to serious injury and even death. Each year, hospital emergency rooms see approximately 30,000 catastrophic injuries from chainsaws. The most frequent chainsaw injuries occur to the left leg and the back of the left hand. These injuries are usually related to kickback and losing control of the saw. Learning about chainsaw accident and injury risk reduction techniques can help you to avoid becoming a statistic.
Kickback occurs when the tip of the saw touches an object or when the wood closes and pinches the chain. Tip contact makes the chainsaw immediately reverse and pushes it up and back toward you (rotational). Pinching causes a movement straight back toward you (linear). Either way, you may lose control of the saw. To avoid chainsaw kickback:
- Set up the worksite to avoid accidental contact with other objects during cutting.
- Use proper cutting methods to avoid touching the tip or pinching the blade.
- Use chainsaws that have an anti-kickback device installed on the tip of the blade.
- Use a chain brake that stops the chain immediately if a kickback occurs.
- Use chains with depth gauges and guard links that prevent the tip from digging deep into wood.
Chains can travel at speeds of 60 miles-per-hour with 600 teeth-per-second passing any given point. That’s too fast for you to rely on your reaction time to prevent an injury. To control the chainsaw properly:
- Don’t “drop-start” a saw—place it level on the ground and use both hands to start it.
- Always use both hands gripped firmly on the chainsaw.
- Keep your right hand on the rear handle and wrap your left hand over the front handle.
- Hold the chainsaw down and to the side to keep your body out of the cutting plane.
- Clear the work area of trip hazards and stagger your feet securely while you work.
- Don’t cut over your head or while standing on a ladder.
You can’t rely on your reflexes to prevent chainsaw injury. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is lifesaving armor between your flesh and the sharp, fast moving teeth. Outfit yourself for chainsaw use by:
- Avoiding loose clothing, jewelry, or loose hair around the moving blade.
- Using a hard hat to protect you from falling limbs.
- Wearing hearing protection—chainsaw noises can exceed 100 decibels.
- Utilizing safety glasses and a face shield to protect your eyes from flying debris.
- Making use of gloves with a good gripping surface help you control the saw.
- Using chaps with Kevlar fibers that cover your whole leg and overlap your ankle.
- Wearing boots with layers of Kevlar in them to stop the blade.
Read the chainsaw manufacturer’s instructions and take advantage of classroom and hands-on chainsaw training. Inspections and maintenance are critical—keep the chainsaw clean and in good working order. Sharpen the teeth and keep the chain lubricated and under proper tension for the best and safest cuts.
Training, site preparation, safe work practices, and wearing the proper safety equipment can prevent chainsaw injuries and fatalities. You, the chainsaw operator, can control these factors before each and every cut.
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The above evaluations and/or recommendations are for general guidance only and should not be relied upon for medical advice or legal compliance purposes. They are based solely on the information provided to us and relate only to those conditions specifically discussed. We do not make any warranty, expressed or implied, that your workplace is safe or healthful or that it complies with all laws, regulations or standards.
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