Oil Spike Latest Twist: Chainsaw Injuries | MEMIC Gives Sharp Advice for Homeowners Cutting Firewood

PORTLAND, Maine, December 1, 2005—As home heating oil and natural gas prices rise and the demand for firewood swells, workers’ compensation insurer Maine Employers’ Mutual Insurance Company (MEMIC) warns homeowners to follow simple safety precautions this firewood season.

Even though most chainsaws on the market come equipped with safety features, chainsaw injuries in 2003 totaled an estimated 27,000 nationwide. Since 1998, twenty-six deaths are linked to chainsaws—16 of which happened at home.

“Whenever we see a chainsaw accident, it’s always the same preventable mistakes,” said Andy Wood, MEMIC safety consultant and trainer for the Certified Logging Professional (CLP) program.

Wood, whose work to eliminate catastrophic logging injuries in Maine earned him the National Safety Man of the Year award in 2004, gives this advice:

Before Cutting:
  • Suit up for safety first—because protective gear is your last line of defense. Always wear safety glasses, earplugs, and sturdy gloves and boots (steel toe are best). Cut resistant pants or “chaps” are cheap protection at $75.
  • See your saw. In other words, check it out. Does it have the necessary safety features such as a chain brake, throttle lock, chain catcher, on-off switch, dogs or bumpers (saw stabilizers) and anti-vibration system? Are they in working order? Is the housing intact with no cracks?
  • Stay sharp. Keeping the chain and bar up to snuff is the single biggest challenge for homeowners. For the chain: file using filing guides and gauges at the first sign of dullness. Consider keeping a sharpened chain handy rather than stopping to sharpen or pushing on a dull chain. Check chain tension periodically, too. For the bar: oil with a quality oil of proper weight for the season.
While Cutting:
  • Start smart. Before starting, put on the chain break, and the decompression, if available. Hold rear handle firmly with either your foot while the saw is on the ground or between your legs.
  • Break for safety. Use the chain break when you start the saw, take more than a few steps with the saw running or take a hand off of the saw to do work like throw a piece of firewood.
  • Steer clear of kickback. It’s the number one cause of injury. Kickback is the force that sends the bar flying back at you as fast as 60 mph. It happens mostly when cutting with the tip of the saw, a.k.a. the “hazard corner.” Always grip the handle firmly with both hands, hold saw close—don’t reach, avoid cutting with the hazard corner and cut wood only at full throttle.
  • More tool tips: Use only the bar and chain designated for your saw, never cut above chest height, don’t wear loose clothing or drawstrings, bend at the knees not the waist when cutting at ground level and stop rolling logs by maintaining the shape of tree-length piles for stability. Finally, keep people and pets at bay.
“Good work techniques not only make your wood cutting more productive, but keep you out of harm’s way,” said Wood.


Maine Employers' Mutual Insurance Company (MEMIC), based in Portland, Maine, is Maine's largest and leading workers' compensation insurer, providing coverage to 21,000 Maine employers and their estimated 170,000 employees. The company is rated “A” (Excellent) by A.M. Best. MEMIC Indemnity Company, based in Manchester, NH, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of MEMIC. It is licensed to write workers' compensation policies throughout the Northeast and into the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest. It is rated “A-” (Excellent) by A.M. Best.