Disclaimer, first and foremost if you are using a chainsaw it is your responsibility to learn how to use it safely, nothing that you read or see on the internet will every be able to replace hands on professional training in the safe use of a chainsaw. The following post describes how I approach using a chainsaw, it is not intended to be a tutorial and should not be taken to be a tutorial, you operate your chainsaw how you wish, this is how I do it.
Accidents involving chainsaws can be horrific, do not under estimate the risks, bodily injury can come from contact with the chainsaw and or falling objects, high force impact such as rapid release of the restrained forces involved with a windblown tree or rolling of logs, the list is almost endless.
Even a minor cut from a chainsaw chain presents risk of infection from oil and bacteria, with a major chainsaw chain injury causing anything from massive bleeding to amputation through to almost instant death if the saw kicks back and catches the neck etc.
Regardless of a small chainsaw through to the biggest they make, I treat every chainsaw with the respect it deserves.
Personal protective equipment - I never operate a chainsaw unless I am wearing the following:-
- Chainsaw trousers, I use class C safety rating 3.
Chainsaw trousers are usually either class A which offer protection to the front of the legs, or class c which offer full protection to the front and the rear of the legs. With the safety rating being the chainsaw chain speed the trousers are rated to protect against, class 3 offering protection against chains travelling at up to 28 Meters per second. Chainsaw trousers are specialist personal protection equipment with the trousers being lined internally with what I would describe as a string like material that is designed to clog the saw if it comes into contact with the trousers, it stops the saw in the blink of an eye, but remember professional saws are moving at upwards of 20 plus meters per second - just think about that please, picture 20 / 28 meters in length of chainsaw chain, then blink and it’s all gone past, over or through.
There are lots of different brands of chainsaw trousers, some more flexible than others, some lighter for climbers (I do not do aerial work) and some that are worn over normal trousers like a cowboys chaps.
I wear trousers, I use an expensive brand, they cost 250 pounds a pair, chainsaw trousers are not designed to be washed after each day, horrible as it sounds, they are worn each day until they become dirty and oil stained enough to warrant washing. I wash each part of my chainsaw clothing on its own and I air dry them out of the sun, I own two pairs and rotate them, I repair them with the manufacturers supplied repair patches if I get them snagged up on thorns etc and tear the top covering.
When I put my chainsaw trousers on, I know that day will be different, they help to remind me that it’s a different type of work.
- Chainsaw boots, I always wear chainsaw boots, I would never even consider starting a chainsaw (that had a chain attached) unless I was wearing chainsaw boots and chainsaw trousers. Chainsaw boots also come in different classes, I use class 1 offering protection of chain speeds up to 20 meters per second. Chainsaw boots offer toe protection, some are steel some are composite all are rated to 1.5 ton min lay weight on the toe. Mine are steel toe and they cost 80 pounds a pair, I have two pairs and I rotate them every day.
Chainsaw boots lace up high up the calf and can be the difference between just a damaged pair of boots or a life changing injury or worse, chainsaw boots have a similar design to chainsaw trousers with material under the surface designed to block and stop a chainsaw chain if it come into contact with it.
Upper body clothes, I just wear a tee shirt, in winter maybe a fleece over a tee shirt, but it doesn’t take long using a chainsaw and that fleece is coming off. There are chainsaw jackets available, made from the same material at the trousers, but I have never heard of anyone using them, they are simply too hot to work in.
Chainsaw gloves - I do not use chainsaw gloves, I use bare hands. I used to use chainsaw gloves, and it is a legal requirement in the UK to use chainsaw gloves, so if you are going to undertake professional training there or undergo certification tests in the UK, then you are required to wear gloves of a certain standard, check with the course provider. I used gloves on testing and certification I did in the UK. In France working for the Office of National Forests (ONF) in the Ardennes forest the governing body has given dispensation to not wearing gloves due to the moss and gunk that builds up almost straight away when you start cutting and it becomes dangerously slippery to use gloves, I can see both side of using gloves and not using gloves, the main danger with not using gloves is your left hand slipping from the front handle and potentially contact with the chain. But my personal view now is that slippery gloves are more of a risk. So I do not wear gloves.
Head, eye and hearing protection - I always wear a helmet and face shield and hearing protection that is designed and certified for chainsaw use, the risk of something being spat out of the saw and hitting me in the eye is too great a risk not to wear face protection. I generally do not wear safety glasses under the face shield, but it’s automatic for me to drop the face shield before I start cutting. Hearing protection is a must for me, I use Stihl saws and they scream, the noise would not only deafen you quickly, but it would drive you insane to the point of not thinking straight. Head protection from falling objects is a possibility so helmet it is.
I have fitted a two way device to my equipment and to two spare helmets, so that if I am working with someone else, say they are driving a tractor or operating a chipper, we can talk easily, without background noise, the system I use allows two way talking and listening between up to 4 people, no need to push and release a button, the mics are open all the time. It makes life much safer for me.
First aid kit - I have a felling belt, which holds felling wedges, lifting tongs, tape, knife, t-bar for adjusting the chain and a first aid kit, the first aid kit is a one handed opening kit from either hand, its water proof and in it I have an Israeli army field dressing bandage (supposed to be the best) one celox gauze hemostatic wound dressing, designed to clog and stop major cuts and wounds and I have a US army tourniquet, that’s it, that’s my belt first aid kit, the belt kit is only there for major injury, its available to me or others that come across me in the event of something going wrong, and could save my life in the remote locations I work.
Mentally in the right place - If I am tired, I stop using the chainsaw. Some people may be too tired to properly operate a chainsaw and move their feet into the correct place etc after 4 hours of use, some maybe only 10 mins. But, I never use my saws when I know I am too tired to operate them correctly, nothing is so important that it cannot wait.
So now I am ready to go to the shed and sort my saws out and get ready to use them, I will detail how I do that in my next post - chainsaw safety part 2, I will try and take some photos tomorrow and include them in the post.
Remember, you wear whatever you want, that’s up to you, this is only a post explaining what I wear EVERY-TIME I use a chainsaw and why.
If you have got down this far, thanks for reading.