Chainsaw Safety Questions

Cornelis De Hoop  |  10/4/2005 8:02:12 PM

Q: What safety equipment is needed for chainsaw use?

A: Chainsaws are equipped with safety features such as chain brakes and chain catchers that should not be removed. Chainsaw safety starts when you purchase the saw. Don’t just purchase a saw by itself. Purchase Personal Protective Equipment (PPE in safety jargon) along with it. PPE does not prevent an accident, but it may keep an accident from being as bad as it could have been.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires the following PPE to be used by any employee who uses a chainsaw:

  • Hard hat (if an overhead hazard exists, such as when cutting a tree)
  • Eye protection
  • Hearing protection
  • Gloves
  • Leg protection
  • Foot protection

Homeowners using chainsaws should do the same.

Since the most commonly injured body part is the legs, leg protection is important. Leg protection is most commonly provided in the form of saw chaps. These chaps have multiple layers of KEVLAR® or ballistic nylon (similar to bullet-proof vests) that are easily drawn into the saw by the saw teeth. Once the material is drawn into the saw, it stops the chain from running. The cost of these chaps ($70) is cheaper than a doctor’s visit. Many loggers will tell you that saw chaps are hot in summer, but still worth wearing because of the protection they give.

Hearing protection is also important. Operating a properly functioning chainsaw for more than two hours without hearing protection will begin permanent hearing loss. If the muffler is removed, permanent hearing loss will start in 15 minutes. Hearing protection comes in two forms – ear plugs and ear muffs. Muffs are slightly more effective than plugs and do not aggravate earwax buildup. Earplugs are more comfortable in hot weather. Either kind works well with normal chainsaw use.

Eye protection comes in many forms and is used to keep sawdust out of the eyes. The stylish sunshades that wrap around the side of the eye are effective for most chainsaw use and are readily available.


Q: Where can chainsaw safety equipment be purchased?

A: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is available from most dealers who sell chainsaws, although you may have to ask them to special order it.

PPE is also available from catalog stores, such as:


Q: Where can I obtain information about chainsaw use, cutting techniques and safety?

A: Some good publications are:

  • The Chainsaw - Use and Maintenance. Swedish Board of Forestry. 67pp. (paperback).
  • Sharp Advice for Chainsaw Owners. Andreas Stihl AG & Co., Wailblingen. 21pp. (available in Adobe pdf format).

The first publication is very comprehensive and covers chainsaw maintenance, equipment, cutting techniques and tree felling techniques. The latter booklet covers only the chainsaw itself and not cutting techniques. Neither are commonly available, and one appears to be out of print. Contact to Dr. de Hoop at (225) 578-4242 or E-mail.

Web sites on chainsaw safety are more easily accessed. North Dakota State University’s Extension Service has an excellent Web site on the topic:

The Web site is good because it has links to several particularly good Web sites. The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) also has a good site (http://www.osha.gov/ – click on “L”, then go to “Logging eTools”). The OSHA Web site also has other safety information on storm cleanup.

Many chainsaw and saw chain manufacturers offer good safety information and technical information on their Web sites. Some also carry their own lines of chainsaw PPE.

Popular chainsaw brands marketed in Louisiana include:

Saw chain manufacturers include Oregon saw chain (http://www.oregonchain.com/), Stihl (see above) and Bailey’s (http://www.baileys-online.com/).

Some professional logger associations (such as http://www.laforestry.com and http://www.americanloggers.org/ ) also have links to safety sites.

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