All too often, people do not read the operator’s manual. That may not be a problem for hair dryers and vacuums. But Dr. Mathew Smidt, an Alabama Extension forestry specialist, says when it comes to chainsaws, the first thing to do is read and understand the owner’s manual.
“If you only read one manual in your life, read your chainsaw owner’s operating manual,” Smidt said. “Everything you need to know about operating a chainsaw safely is in that.”
Secondly, wear personal protective equipment. Many injuries can be prevented by wearing chainsaw leggings or chaps,” Smidt said.
Other equipment includes eye protection, gloves and cut-retardant shirts.
Tip number three is know your skill level. Make sure you have proper training to develop the skills needed to cut wood on the ground or to fell a tree. Knowledge of tension and compression is important as well, it can prevent injuries by knowing how and where the wood will collapse.
Fourth, stay hydrated and take breaks. Many people doing yard work are just occasional workers. Therefore, they don’t have the arm strength for what they’re doing or the physical stamina. Chainsaws weigh between 10 and 14 pounds, when you hold it away from your body it can get heavy fairly quick. It’s important to work at a pace that doesn’t leave you overly tired.
Smidt said that fatigue decreases reaction time and it affects decision-making skills.
Tip number five, understand kickback. How you place the saw on wood will push or pull the chainsaw out of the wood. Chains run at about 70 miles per hour meaning that if the chain is suddenly stopped that the bar is now moving at nearly the same speed. The phenomena is called kick-back and is caused by contact between an object and the upper corner of the bar tip.
Consumer saws have protection from kickback: a chain brake, a guide tip that covers the tip of the saw or low kickback chains. There are various ways to protect yourself from kickback but the key point is to avoid touching anything with the tip of the saw whether it be a tree, a limb or even just a vine.
Lastly, maintain your chainsaw. It’s important because you want to make sure the chainsaw safety gear works. Also, if your saw is in good condition, it works well and you’ll get your work done faster so there’s less fatigue.
“There’s no reason for someone to go out into the woods without knowing the basics of using a chainsaw,” Smidt said.