Chain saws are wonderful tools for cutting firewood and staying warm in the cold months. However, chain saws can be dangerous! Chain saw safety includes proper planning to enjoy safe operation.
Proper planning includes preparing yourself for the task. Read the operator’s manual and follow instructions carefully. If you’re using a chain saw for the first time, train with an experienced chain saw user before starting your first task. Regardless of your level of expertise, never use a chain saw unsupervised.
Wear protective gear including well-fitted clothing including vest and chaps, hard hat, safety goggles or face screen, ear muffs or plugs, leather or safety boots and gloves. Be sure you are physically and mentally ready for the task by carefully considering medications, distractions and conditions that may prevent you from maximum concentration when using a chain saw.
Select the right chain saw for the task. Be sure to match the saw bar length to the job. Electric chain saws require access to electric power and use of an extension cord. Gasoline powered chain saws have more bar length choices, and require gasoline-oil mixtures as fuel. Both types of chain saws have hazards with use. For example, electric chain saws have a potential shock hazards, and gasoline powered chain saws have fire and burn hazards.
Chain saw safety includes proper care and upkeep of your chain saw. Perform maintenance by regularly lubricating the chain, and checking the air filter, spark plug and muffler. Prior to each use check safety features such as the chain brake, anti-kick back chain, safety tip on the bar, bushings and the trigger or throttle lock-out.
Storage of the chain saw includes draining the fuel tank and disconnecting the spark plug on gasoline-powered models. Most models require removal of the chain with storage in a container containing oil. Consider keeping the operator’s manual in a plastic bag, and placing it along with chain saw maintenance tools, supplies, and in a specific tool bag for easy access.
When should you call a professional? Assess your chain saw skills, the size of the tree or wood diameter and the length of the guide bar on your chain bar. Scan the location from a safety perspective. Is the tree rotten, split or hollow? Look for potential obstacles such as power lines, or limbs under tension. Do you have adequate space and a clear escape route? If you have any of these or other safety concerns it is best to call a professional.
Chain saws and your safety are an investment. Read and follow the owner’s manual carefully. Safety begins with careful thought and preparation to enjoy the years to come. “Working safely may get old, but so do those who practice it.” ~Author Unknown
– Kim Vickous, MSN, RN
Occupational Health and Safety Association, (n.d.). Chain saw safety. (U.S. Department of
Labor publication OSHA 3269-10N-05). Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/Publications/3269-10N-05-english-06-27-2007.html
Stelzer, H.E. (n.d.). Operating a chain saw safely. (University of Missouri Extension publication
g1959). Retrieved from http://extension.missouri.edu/explorepdf/agguides/agengin/G01959.pdf