Chainsaw Safety Review

This is the time of the year when many homeowners prepare for the coming winter by stockpiling firewood. There’s always a large contingent who cut up their own firewood as part of this annual ritual, and those folks likely will use a chainsaw to do it.

What logging professionals know that homeowners may not is how inherently unsafe this task is. The logging industry has long been among the most dangerous of professions. At its worst point, the industry infamously held an average annual fatality rate 23 times higher than all other U.S. industries.

A logger would tell you that these weekend woodcutter's are even at greater risk because they're using a very dangerous tool on a part-time basis. A chainsaw can:

  • Move up to 45 mph,
  • Have  more than 600 teeth passing a given point per second, and
  • Reach 900 degrees Fahrenheit.

With that in mind, a brief safety review would be pertinent.

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): PPE is your last line of defense against injury. Always wear the suggested PPE, which includes but is not limited to hat, gloves and eye protection, and make sure it’s in serviceable condition.
  • Chainsaw safety features: Make sure your saw has the necessary safety features and verify they’re in serviceable condition before use.
  • Bar and chain maintenance and filing: A properly maintained bar and chain keeps your saw operating at peak performance as well as reduces stress on your body and minimizes the chance for injury.
  • Chain brake use: The chain brake should be used whenever starting the saw, taking more than a few steps with the saw running and when one hand comes off the saw to do work such as throw a piece of firewood
  • Starting Technique: Proper starting technique minimizes the wear and tear on the saw and your body, and reduces the chance for injury:
    • chain brake on
    • decompression on, if present
    • rear handle held firmly – saw on ground with foot holding rear handle or rear handle gripped between legs
    • no people or obstacles in immediate work area

Here is another well-written review of the basics that include the four must dos, how to choose a saw and what to wear:

More good information: