How to Avoid Chainsaw Kickback
It is estimated that 8 percent of all chainsaw accidents are as a result of chainsaw kickback. There’s a high potential for injury when operating a chainsaw and so precautionary steps should be taken into consideration at all times before during and after operating a chainsaw.
Chainsaw Kickback is a term used to describe a sudden upward motion of the guide bar and associated moving chain. The term is used to describe one of the most common causes of accidents and injuries when operating a chainsaw of any nature.
What this mean is that if you don’t follow and understand the proper cutting techniques while operating a chainsaw you may fall victim of these kickback events. Chainsaws are a very common used tool in Australia, USA, Canada and many other countries of the world to perform minor gardening tasks using smaller chainsaws, while larger more powerful saws are also used for bulk forestry needs. The increased use of chainsaws in modern times comes with the potential to inflict severe injuries if precautions are not taken to ensure safe operation and use.
Injuries associated with chainsaw usage can be very severe. However with that being said there is very little published research or information that seeks to inform the public and specifically minor gardeners of the problems associated with operating a chainsaw.
The aim of this article is not to cause unnecessary apprehension or worry for the person reading. It is worth noting that fear and worry generally come from a lack of information to begin with. So the aim of this piece is to plainly lay out all the relevant information you need to be aware of when using a chainsaw of any type, especially when it comes to the risks surrounding chainsaw kickback.
According to statistics, there are over 3 million chainsaws sold in the USA alone every year. With the above resulting in over 28,000 chainsaw-related injuries for the same period of time. Statistics show that a significant number of the injuries are caused by increasing negligence regarding the use of Personal Protective gear and a significant number of them are as a result of a chainsaw kickback.
What Causes Chainsaw Kickback?
With the little information being available for people to understand chainsaw kickback, the majority of chainsaw users don’t actually know the real cause of chainsaw Kickback to begin with.
Ok so let’s start off by saying that there are several reasons why chainsaw kickback can occur, however the most common fall under two categories.
The most common cause of chainsaw kickbacks happen when the tip of the guide bar strikes a hard solid object, such as a piece of metal, for example a steel nail or even a stone. In the following video you will see how kickback can occour from cutting using just the tip of the chainsaw which you should never do under any circumstances!
Chainsaw Kickback can also happen when the bar and chain strikes on any other immovable object object. We bet you already know that the chain on the chainsaw is moving in a circular motion. The chain rotates forward and away from you.
When the chain cuts into or strikes a hard object, it is likely to change the direction and start moving back towards you. What this means is that if the machine comes into contact on the kickback zone, the chain will kick up and back towards your face, in a split second.
The other cause for chainsaw kickback although a little more uncommon is when the log you are cutting closes up holding the chain tight. If the chainsaw Chain doesn’t have a free cutting tip, it is likely to strain the engine and potential risk of a kickback will come into place. There are several other causes of kickback. In the majority of chainsaw related accidents, the investigations established that improper usage of a chainsaw was the main cause of the kickback and resulting injury. The chain can also jump back when it is dull. This is one of the reasons why it is important to keep your chainsaw chain sharp. Check out our guide on How to Sharpen a Chainsaw Chain so you can keep your chain sharp in a few easy steps. Remember a dull chainsaw chain can cause several problems kickbacks being one of them. This occurs especially when the chain is pitched between logs with force from each side being applied. If you stop the chain while cutting from below, the chainsaw has a tendency to kick out.
NB: The speed of the rotating chain, the amount of force exerted on it, how fast the chain stops and the place the chain is being stopped at all combine to determine how severe the kickback will be and also what direction it will be projected at. It essentially will follow the laws of physics in that for every action there will be an equal and opposite reaction.
What Can Increase the Risk of Chainsaw Kickback?
The way you handle your chainsaw can either increase or decrease the potential risk of injury. There are several handling and maintenance issues that can increase the risk of a kickback.
- A Dull Chain – A dull chain may cause kickback. The reason for this is that the chain will be strained and hence needs more force to cut through. If the force needed to cut through is more than the one supported by the engine, the chain is likely to kick back.
- Improper Chainsaw Maintenance – This can increase the chances of chainsaw kickback. If you don’t maintain the sharpness of the chain and the quality of the engine, then you are likely to have trouble working with it.
- Loose Chain Tension – There are several problems that a loose chain can cause the user. It can compromise chainsaw performance and at the same time cause injuries due to kickbacks. You also run the risk of breaking the chain completely or the chain may even become derailed completely.
There are several other things worth mentioning that can increase the chances of chainsaw kickback which includes:
- Loose Chain Rivets
- Incorrectly sharpened Chain Angles,
- Incorrect Chain Depth Gauge Shapes
- Cracked, Bent or even Broken Chain Components
- Incorrectly Installed Chainsaw Parts.
Kickback Danger Area
The term kickback danger area is used to refer to the top or tip of the chainsaw bar which poses the greatest risk from kickback. It is the zone with the highest chance of being struck by chainsaw kickback. You can reduce the potential risks by simply avoiding using this part of the chainsaw to cut with. This is the area that doesn’t sustain any force and so it can cause kickback even when it touches a small log or branch. What the majority of people don’t realize is that the larger the bar nose size, the higher the potential risk from chainsaw kickback.
Modern Safety Features
When you are shopping for a chainsaw either new or used try and look for a saw that has useful safety features to prevent or at least reduce risk. Many chainsaw companies are adding innovative features to their chainsaws that make them safer and easier to use. Here are some of the features that you should be looking for when considering investing in a chainsaw;
- Front Hand Guard – This is a bar in front of the top handle which is specifically designed to stop a slipping chain. It is specifically designed to reduce the risk of injury when a chain has broken while in motion. It prevents the slipping hand from coming into contact with the chain.
- Throttle Trigger Interlock – This prevents the throttle from opening accidentally. It blocks the throttle trigger very effectively making chainsaw operation much safer.
- A Stop Switch – This is fitted right on your right hand holding the trigger bar. With several chainsaw manufacturers out there, you should ensure that the stop switch is located in a safe place where you can reach it easily with your hand. You can stop the machine immediately once you notice something fatal about to happen.
- Chain Brake – This feature is specifically designed to stop a moving chain in a matter of seconds. It can be beneficial in case a kickback happening. The Chain brake also functions as the front hand guide in many saws.
- Rear Hand Guard – This is another very important feature that is designed to protect the rear hand from a jumping chain.
- Chain Catcher – This is specifically designed to catch a moving or a jumping chain.
- Spark Arrester – This feature prevents fires occurring with hot exhausts on gasoline powered chainsaws. It essentially prevents sparks from being ejected by the machines exhaust.
- Bumper Spike – This is used to rest the chain on the wood when you are cutting to prevent kickbacks.
- Anti-Kickback Chain – This chain is also important in reducing the risks of a kickback. It helps to reduce the force on the chain that causes the kickbacks to happen.
With that being said it is important to ensure that the saw you purchase is in good order mechanically and has all the anti-kickback features described above. The prefect machine is the one you can handle safely without the worry of injuries happening due to kickback incidents.
How to Avoid Chainsaw Kickbacks
Our main concern in this brief is to describe how to avoid chainsaw kickbacks and help keep yourself safe when operating a chainsaw. We are going to share some of the most effective methods of avoiding chainsaw kickback, ensuring there are minimal chance of injuries from it.
Get the Right Training?
The majority of people think that using a chainsaw is something that requires learned skills. Yes there is a lot to be said for learning by doing as opposed to paralysis by analysis! However using a chainsaw requires a little knowledge to start off to ensure safe operation and allow you to learn more effectively. However this approach may take a longer time especially if you are a greenhorn to begin with. So ideally you should get the right training first, before you start pruning or trimming your trees with the use of a chainsaw. Ensure that you read the manual of a new chainsaw before using it also as they contain very valuable information about your chainsaw and its strengths and indeed limitations. This way, you will be aware of all the security features in the machine and also about their positions and how they are used.
Know Your Chainsaw
Each machine is unique and so you should be sure of what to expect before you even pull it out of the box. Each and every machine is manufactured by a different company and so it will have its own unique features and quirks. Ensure that you are well versed with all the dimensions and functions of your machine before putting it to use. If you are a beginner, this is imperative. You should know the type of a machine you are using and also get a clear understanding between the features of the machine you saw your uncle with and the one you are about to use. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the saw. Open the manual and allow for some more time to go through it. Know the features included, where they are located and how they are used. Never rush into or succumb to the temptation to try out your new chainsaw as quickly as possibly as this can lead to the perfect conditions for an accident to occur. An unfamiliar saw in a novice or even a professionals hands increases the risk level unnecessarily.
Wear Personal Protective Equipment
As a matter of fact, all chainsaws can produce kickback during operation and there are many potential injuries from it. To ensure that there are minimal to no cuts in case a kickback occurred or when a chain is broken, it is important to wear the correct Personal Protective Equipment. You should always wear a helmet, safety boots, Quality gloves, trousers and eye protection. Ensure that the helmet you choose has a visor attached. This measure will help reduce any injuries in case a kickback occurs or from flying debris.
Having the right attitude towards what you are doing is crucial. It shouldn’t be a situation where someone picks the machine, starts it and then starts to cut the logs or wood but with great apprehension and with worry in their mind. You don’t have to fear the machine. Yes, it is a powerful machine but just look at it as just another tool and ensure you have the right affirmative attitude. This is what is going to save you in case something scary or unusual happens. If you have fear when operating the machine, you are likely to get injured. It’s ok to feel slightly apprehensive to begin with this apprehension will fizzle away the more experienced you get but remember being overly laid back is just as dangerous as being overly cautious. Find the middle ground!
Keep Your Hands on the Machine
This is the first thing that you should keep in mind is this. You are handling a machine that needs combined efforts of both hands to stay functional. For this reason, you must maintain full control of the machine by simply keeping both of your hands on it. Stay focused as you continue with the task at hand and take full control of the situation. If you lose control of the machine when a kickback has happened, it will prove more dangerous. If you still maintain full control of the machine while in operation, then there is a minimal likelihood of any injury occurring. With both hands on the machine, you have a much higher potential chance of getting it back under control again.
Sharpness and Chain Tension Matter
As we have already stated above, chainsaw tension and sharpness can be a cause of much trouble if not maintained at the perfect level and condition. A dull chainsaw can cause kickback and therefore it is very important to keep the chain sharp and tight. You should be on the lookout for signs of a dull chain and stop the machine for sharpening if symptoms occur. Never go out cutting with a dull or a loose chain, this can compromise the performance of the machine and at the same time put you under unnecessary risk.
Ensure That There Are No Obstructions in the Area You Are Cutting
Assuming any of the following situations: there is an unnoticed nail or a metal in a log that you intend to cut or there’s an unnoticed stone or a hard object in the log you want to cut.
Do you know what could happen? It’s important to consider the potential dangers that these hidden threats can cause. These types of situations can cause damage to your saw while at the same time put you under increased risk of a kickback injury. The sparks and the moving particles can also damage your eyes if eye protection is overlooked. For this reason, double check that there are no metal objects like wire, nails or stone in the log or even close by.
Position Yourself All the Time
Ensure that you anticipate a saw kick back at all times. It is very important to make sure that in the event of a kickback, you are mentally and physically prepared to tackle the situation. It is also good to ensure that you will take appropriate measures to ensure that the chainsaw is not projected towards you should the situation arise.
Plan Your Cuts
You don’t have to keep the chain moving from one place to another. Take the time to plan the cuts in your head and take several shots to practice the cut on waste timber if needed. Also ensure that your hands and body are positioned the right way before you move on to another cut. Another words always re adjust your body position to the best position for the next cut even if that means walking around a felled tree to the other side.
To Wrap Up
Knowing what chainsaw kickback is and how to prevent it is a fundamental step towards safe and effective chainsaw operation. The items listed above are some of the basics you should know when starting off using a chainsaw for the first time. Another reason for many accidents occurring nowadays is that people can feel like time is against them and begin to rush in order to get a job done as quickly as possible. If you find yourself in a position where you are rushing for whatever reason reassess the situation and postpone the work until you have the adequate time set aside for safe work to be carried out at a safe pace. The good news is there is a neat little add on item called a Chainsaw Tip Guard which is a simple metal chain cover that can be fitted to prevent the risk of the tip striking something and moving towards you as in what happens with chainsaw kickback. If the saw you have doesnt have this neat safety item we suggest you get one to improve your safety while working with the saw. Heres a video of what these chainsaw tip guards look like and how they can be fitted.
We hope you found this article useful and informative. We would love to hear your views on everything relating to rechargeable chainsaws so why not post your comments on the Rechargeable Chainsaw Blog here you will find other posts relevant to the topic of rechargeable chainsaws. So as Always;
Thanks Folks and Happy Cutting!