The Chainsaw Accident Prevention Guide
You don’t have to watch a horror movie to know that chainsaws are dangerous. Statistics show that each year, approximately 36,000 people in the US are treated in hospital emergency departments for injuries relating to chainsaw use.
In the USA as a case in point, chainsaw injuries will increase sharply after a hurricane has struck and when there’s increased need for chainsaw services to remove fallen or even partially fallen trees and branches.
A recent study done by the CPSC concluded that a significant number of these accidents wind up being very dangerous to the operator leading to death or even permanent impairment in certain cases.
Most of the other related chainsaw accidents tend to cause harm to peoples properties and in certain instances the people around the Vicinity where chainsaws are being used. Among the many accidents that can occur, one of the more common is Chainsaw Kickbacks which happens to be the predominant reason for chainsaw accidents. What this means is that if you are able to avoid chainsaw kickbacks entirely, then you are in much less danger than not being aware of the possibility of these kickbacks taking place.
In order to eliminate the hidden dangers of chainsaw kickback you must take appropriate measures to ensure that you err on the side of caution. Always read the tool and operating guides that came with your chainsaw and related equipment, and if possible share the manual or relay the information with family and acquaintances. This will help ensure everyone is a little more informed when using a chainsaw.
The aim of this article is to give some tips to help you avoid chainsaw kickbacks and several other common chainsaw accidents by becoming more aware about why they happen and how they can be best avoided. One of the main reasons for accidents occurring in general is a lack of knowledge mixed with people in a rush to get a job done. Remember never use a chainsaw if you are tight for time, always plan the cutting process and if you aren’t fully confident in your abilities hire an expert!
The information in the following chainsaw accident prevention guide is meant as a guide only.
If you are unsure about certain elements of using a chainsaw always ask a suitably knowledgeable person to clarify any questions you may have, about the cutting task at hand.
What is Chainsaw Kickback?
Chainsaw kickback is a term used to describe the sudden upward motion of the chainsaw when in use. The term itself describes one of the most dangerous chainsaw accident on earth. The nose of the chainsaw kicks back towards the operator creating a potential danger to him or her. There are several things that can lead to chainsaw kickback. However there are two circumstances that are known to cause such an event. They are;
- When the blade is pitched between wood – When the wood closes and holds the blade of the chainsaw in between, there’s likelihood that the machine will kickback towards the operator.
- The other potential cause of chainsaw kickback is when the nose of the guide bar which is also known as the kickback zone hits a solid object such as a metal or a stone when the machine is in operation. When there is a hard surface on the cutting space, this will drive the chainsaw back towards you. This can be especially dangerous if the machine is in a high rate of cutting and when you are tired.
If you don’t pay enough attention to proper cutting techniques, you are likely to fall a victim of chainsaw kickback. The lightning kickback speed of a chainsaw can be very dangerous and leaves the operator no time to readjust to the movement.
How to Avoid Chainsaw Kickback and Other Chainsaw Related Accidents?
As we have already stated earlier, there are several factors that can increase the chances of a chainsaw kickback. However, the chances of a kickback can be reduced if the following tips are taken into consideration and put in place. At this point, we are going to share some of the most crucial tips with you to avoid chainsaw kickback and other chainsaw related accidents.
We will also discuss what to do in order to ensure you take full control of your machine in any case if an accident does occur. Statistics show that the worst mistake that an operator can make is to lose control of a machine in case an accident occurs, especially in the case of chainsaw kickback.
Know Your Machine
It is advisable that before using any machine, you read all the safety features and ensure you are well versed with what to do in case there is any potential danger. There are several chainsaw brands on the market today and each of them comes with different chainsaw features. Make it a habit to read the user manual first. This is the first step that will help you avoid or even prevent fatal accidents when you are using the machine.
With all the parts and the things to do, it is easy to get confused or overlook certain things. You will also need to know the anatomy of your chainsaw in order to discover any abnormalities or potential problems before they develop. Take the time to familiarize yourself with your machine first of all.
Stay Cautious Every Time you are using a Chainsaw
Every time you get your hands on your chainsaw, just bear in mind that it is like grabbing a hand grenade with no safety pin. For this reason, every time you are using the machine, be very cautious. The reality of the matter is that from the time you get it out of the store to the time you return it back, you can be hurt. There are several instances that can put you into danger. What we are trying to say is that being ready for something bad will always make you able to control the situation every time and so prevent the situation from happening. You will be better able to tackle something if you are cautious about it, rather than being over confident and taking risks. Always plan your next move well in advance when using a chainsaw, and never cut without thinking of what will happen next.
Understand Your Limits
You have to understand and know your limits. Sometimes it is better to call a professional in to do the work if you think it is beyond your abilities. . If you detect that you don’t have enough experience to fell big trees, just get someone else to do that. Accept your limits, and don’t spend a lot of your time considering things that will put you in danger. If you detect that the task is way above your abilities, get someone to do this for you especially someone who has experience in this field. Sometimes this is the most important thing you can do for yourself. If you are beginner, then you should always start off small until you gain enough experience to tackle what the ‘’pros’’ can tackle. You can always start with a rechargeable or an electric chainsaw first because they are comparably safe and easy to use. A petrol powered chainsaw is very powerful and there’s more of a likelihood that you can be hurt not to mention the greater technical awareness needed to use and maintain such a saw.
Always Hold the Chainsaw with Both Hands
How you hold a chainsaw is very important especially when the operator’s safety is of paramount importance. The reality of the matter is that a chainsaw especially a gas operated chainsaw is the most powerful and equally most dangerous machine to handle. What this means is that you should ensure you are holding it in the correct way. Some common sense rules apply when you are using a chainsaw. One of these rules is that you should hold the machine with two hands. This will ensure that you have full control in case there’s potential danger like a sudden kickback or saw jam. In case of a kickback, how you handle the machine determines how safe you are going to be. If you are able to have full control of the machine, then you are in a much safer position.
The Danger of Falling Trees
There’s always potential danger especially when you are cutting down trees. You can be hit by the falling tree itself, its branches or indeed the branches of nearby trees. For this reason, before you start cutting any tree, there are several things that you should do. Cutting down a tree poses many hazards. However, the good thing is that most of the accidents can be controlled or even entirely avoided if appropriate measures are taken into consideration. You need to use proper cutting techniques and at the same time observe relevant safety precautions.
Remove Branches Before Felling the Tree
To ensure that you are safe from a falling tree, you first of all should ensure that you have removed any branches that can in certain cases hit you when the tree is falling. The reality of the matter is that the most obvious danger of working at heights is the potential danger of being hit by the branches. Falling branches can be dangerous especially when you are bending away from your center of Gravity or when you are using unwieldy tools. For this reason, ensure that you have cleared some of the branches from the tree safely before you cut it down, and always wear head protection like a helmet and face shield combo when there is a chance of being struck by overhead branches.
Plan Your Escape Route
This is the most important thing that you should do before you start felling a tree. We all know that there are several factors that can affect the direction that a tree will fall. We usually recommend operators clearing and pre-planning their escape route and if necessary rehearse their escape plan before starting to cut down any tree. When felling trees, you need a safe, clear escape route.
Use the 90-15-5 Rule
We bet that most chainsaw operators probably don’t know that 90% of the accidents during felling trees occur within 15 seconds after the tree moves and within 5 feet of the truck. This is what we call the 90-15-5 rule. Experienced operators revealed that within the radius of the tree, there are two high danger zones and two safer routes. The first and the largest danger zone occupies about half of the radius from the center of the tree to the direction of the falling tree. The other danger zone is about a quarter-circle area in the direction of the falling tree. At this point, you can only be hurt if the tree jumps after falling.
The other thing that you are supposed to bear in mind is that you are supposed to use an escape route in the 45-degree angles between these danger zones. Your retreat distance should be a minimum of 20 feet from the falling tree. Now you know where you should plan your escape route. Clear the route and ensure that there’s nothing that could obstruct you when you are escaping.
Don’t Start Escaping Before the Tree Starts to Fall
This is one of the most common crime that chainsaw operators carry out. What the majority of people don’t know is that if you start escaping before the tree starts to fall, you will probably not be able to estimate the falling direction. What this means is that there is a strong possibility of being caught up when the tree starts to fall.
For this reason, you are supposed to wait until the tree just starts to fall before making your escape. You are supposed to look at the falling direction and after that you simply escape in the opposite direction. In case the falling direction is manipulated by the use of a rope, alert the people who are pulling the rope when the tree is about to fall. Don’t wait until the tree is falling and then signal them.
The Danger of Electrocution
If you are dealing with a tree near power lines, then there’s a strong likelihood of electrocution. If you want to remove branches or even cut down trees near a power line, then you should be careful to avoid being electrocuted. The first thing that you are supposed to do is to alert the power supply company to come and either switch the current off or just remove the wires before you start cutting down the trees or the tree branches. The power company can as well insulate the power lines with blankets for you. Even though, you still need to take caution to ensure you don’t touch the power lines when you are operating the machine.
The Danger of Tool Injuries
The tools you are using are potentially dangerous. Although the machine makes the process of cutting down trees infinitely easier. Be careful when sharpening the chainsaw chain and handling the chainsaw and associated tools. Read the manual before you undertake any maintenance and repair tasks. Some chainsaw parts are dangerous like hot exhausts or sharp chain teeth, and so you need to practice caution when handling them. What’s more?
Wear Protective Gear
This is not debatable, you need to ensure that you are wearing the right Personal Protective Equipment before you embark on your tree falling activities. Wear appropriate head protection, eye protection, ear protection and any other relevant protection.
Assess Your Own Physical Condition
It doesn’t matter how physically fit you are, you have to ensure that you are ready and in a suitable condition to use the machine each and every time you get it out of the store. The realty of the matter is that using a chainsaw is physically demanding and so you need to access your own physical condition before you start cutting down trees. What we are trying to say is that you should not take up the task of felling and handling trees if you are not physically fit for the chainsaw you are using.
Take Plenty of Rest Breaks
The more time you take using a chainsaw without even taking 20 minutes for some rest, the more you increase your chances of an accident. For this reason, you are supposed to ensure that every 1 hour, you take at least 10 minute’s rest. Of course the longer you use you chainsaw the more tired you will become, especially of you are just starting out and your muscles aren’t used to much physical exertion. Remember that when tiredness creeps in this is when accidents happen. Shortcuts are taken, people start rushing to get the job finished and important things get overlooked.
Never Work Under the Influence
Under no circumstances should you handle or operate a machine when you are under the influence of any substance like drink or drugs. You also shouldn’t handle the machine under the influence of any substance including cold medicines and other drugs that can impair your vision, dexterity or judgement.
To Wrap Up
Remember the vast majority of accidents can be prevented with improved knowledge and understanding and using the correct methods and approaches. Following the tips and guidelines will help improve your level of safety and hopefully those around you also. Using a chainsaw can be a very rewarding process and you can see much progress in a short space of time. Using a common sense approach always helps avoid accidents. When you are guessing that’s when things can go wrong in unexpected ways.
Hopefully you will find these tips useful. One last tip that we recommend is to keep onlookers at a minimum. People can cause unnecessary distraction to a person felling a tree and unless they are directly involved in the tree cutting operation they actually cause more harm than good. Onlookers are at risk of being struck by falling trees and branches. The onus is on the person felling the tree to control every aspect of cutting the trees involved. Never feel pressurized into a situation you are uncomfortable with. If you feel people are going to be a distraction ask them to leave and don’t carry out the work until you are satisfied with every aspect. If you pay attention to these along with the other tips on the site then you will have years of contentment with your chainsaw.
Check out the Rechargeable Chainsaw Blog for more useful posts. Also have a look at the other useful articles in our Resources and Guides Sections.
Thanks Folks and Safe Cutting!