Start Me Up!

It’s probably safe to say that a chainsaw is one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment in your home. With thousands of emergency room visits required every year, accidents with these tools are typically more severe due to their design and power.

The majority of injuries occur to the left (leading) hand or to the feet and lower legs. Some of the worst accidents happen to the head and upper torso though, due to slips and kickbacks when cutting higher. Sounds scary, but chainsaws aren’t something to be feared. Their use just needs to be mastered with some experience and a good dose of common sense.

Choosing the Right Saw

When selecting a saw, it’s important that it be right for the job AND right for you. Never attempt to use a chainsaw that is more than you can handle.

  • Take a look at the types of jobs that you may need to do around your property, and that will help to determine the size of the saw required. Typically, electric models are good for smaller jobs in closer proximity to buildings, while gas powered models provide the size, power and freedom to work further away and for larger cuts.
  • Speak with an authorized dealer about your specific needs and what equipment might work best for you. Also ask for a demo of any new equipment and the availability of training courses. Sometimes, starting out with a smaller saw for practice is a good plan if you are unsure.
  • Ensure that your hands can fit all the way around the handles for optimal grip
  • When handling, you should be able to easily adjust the throttle and ‘kill’ switches without having to adjust your grip or look down
  • When finishing a cut, if you find that the saw tips forward or puts you off-balance, then it is likely too big and heavy for you
  • Look for models that have a hand guard/chain brake installed for added safety. Some also come with an anti kickback guard at the tip of the chain bar.

Getting Started

Before you start to cut, here are a few things to keep in-mind.

  • Always read the owner’s manual to thoroughly familiarize yourself with all of the operating and safety features
  • Keep your equipment clean and well-maintained. Inspect it regularly for damage and wear, and make any necessary repairs immediately.
  • Never remove safety guards (they are there for a reason)
  • Ensure that the chain is sharp, well lubricated and is set at the correct tension. Remember that a dull chain requires more pressure to cut, and this can lead to slips and a potential accident.
  • Never start your saw in an enclosed space, in order to avoid the chance of carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Avoid drop-starting the saw or holding it against your body when you start. The safer method is to hold it firmly on the ground with one hand or your foot and pull the starter cord with your free hand.

Safety Basics

Now that you’re up and running, remember that some basic safety rules and common sense can go a long way in avoiding a potential accident.

  • Hire a professional tree service (or recruit someone with more experience) if you feel that the cutting job you have is too big for you to handle. Why take the chance?
  • Always shut the saw off when unattended, carrying from point-to-point, making adjustments or refueling
  • Use both hands and employ a firm grip when cutting. Ideally cut as low as possible and never above shoulder height.
  • Be sure that your stance is solid, and that your footing is dry and clutter-free
  • Create a ‘safe zone’ around you for cutting and be aware of where everyone is in the area. Keep both kids and pets away altogether.
  • Always wear proper clothing and approved personal protective equipment (PPE) when operating a chain saw. This would include:
    • Long pants
    • Safety boots
    • Impact resistant goggles or glasses
    • Ear plugs or ear muffs
    • Cut resistant gloves
    • Hard hat or full face shield where necessary
    • Protective chaps or jacket
  • Be aware of overhead wires or other obstructions when felling trees
  • Keep your feet firmly on the ground, and avoid cutting from ladders or standing on other items to increase your height
  • Keep the saw to one side and avoid standing directly behind it. This precaution can save you in the event of a bad kickback or chain break.
  • Maintain full power throughout each cut to help avoid pinching and kickbacks
  • Don’t attempt to use a chain saw if you have been drinking or taking drugs, are on strong medication, are heavily fatigued or are otherwise impaired
  • Ideally, use a buddy system when cutting and avoid working alone. If you have no choice, make sure that someone knows where you are and when you’ll be finished. Keeping a mobile phone on you is also a good plan.
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