Did you know that forestry is consistently rated as one of the top 5 most major dangerous jobs in the world? Chainsaws are portrayed as deadly weapons in movies, and can become exactly that in untrained hands. The first line of defense when operating a chainsaw is education. If you know the risks and how to respond to and approach this dangerous tool you'll be much better prepared.

As a Beginner

  • Start with a shorter bar. Its appealing to start big with the expectation of dropping huge redwoods, but longer bars are much more difficult to handle. After having the opportunity to just hold Stihl's MS880 with a 47" bar I have a very clear picture of the danger involved. Longer bars do not balance well, they also make it more easy to have the saw jump from your hands during operation. The bar can also contribute substantially to increased weight as they are nearly solid metal, this only contributes to operator fatigue.
  • Formarl chainsaw training is available. At the very least, if your not experienced as your salesperson to show you how each of the safty features works.
  • Set the chain break when not using the saw. Many chainsaw accidents happen while just walking. Its easy to imagine a scenario where one could stumble and fall onto a saw. Setting the chain break will ensure safety.
  • Wear protective clothing. A set of kevlar chaps costs $50-70 and should be mandatory. Helmets, gloves, glasses, boots, and ear protection should also be considered.

As an experienced operator

  • Keep other people away from your working area
  • Never work alone, always have someone within calling distance
  • If your tired, stop and rest
  • Never cut above shoulder height
  • Don't fuel a hot saw, let things cool first to avoid spilled fuel risks.

Starting

  • Proper chainsaw etiquette will always have someone starting the saw on the ground. Each saw is designed with a large flat area on the handle on which to step. "drop-starting" is a very hazardous way to start a chainsaw. If you wish to start the saw while standing, its much more safe to hold the trigger area between your knees, hold the saw with one arm and pull start it with the other.
  • New chainsaws have 100-150lbs of engine compression making them very hard to start. Smaller saws with less displacement are much harder to pull-start then larger saws since there is more free air to compress in the chamber. If your unsure if you have the strength to start the saw saftly shop for a model with an EZ-Start feature or a decompression valve.
  • Choose a clear, flat area to start the saw incase you happen to stumble.

Avoiding Kickback

  • Always cut with the chainsaw at full throttle. This reduces the chances of kickback and makes the job easier.
  • Position your body offset from the saw so that if it does kick there is a chance it may miss your body.
  • Keep a firm grip on the front handle. If the saw does kick back, your wrist should activate the chain break.
  • Make sure the chain is properly tensioned and sharp.
  • Watch the end of the bar. This is the area that often causes kickback to occur. Always try and cut with the portion nearest the bar.
  • Always clear away and limbs that maybe on the other side of a cut. The saw can catch these unexpectedly.

Tree Felling

  • The risks from felling come not from the saw or the falling tree, but from falling limbs.
  • Check the work area before you cut, make sure the tree will not contact anything else as it falls.
  • Avoid cutting in heavy winds that can cause unpredictable falls.
  • Keep other people and equipment at least three tree lengths away. Its difficult to judge the exact height, always error on the side of caution.
  • Always keep a supply of wedges on hand to free a stuck saw.
  • If you have a tree that has heavy lean, thats propped up, over a building, near power lines, or on unstable ground, be sure to contact a profresional.