Staying safe with chainsaws

by Andy Bryenton

They’ve revolutionised forestry and changed the way the average person deals with firewood — and even the way farmers cut fence posts to size or builders chop down excess timber. Whether felling, pruning or making mounds of winter fuel, the ubiquitous chainsaw has saved hundreds of hours of time and added millions to the economy. Nevertheless, there are still those who don’t know how to stay safe with these powerful tools. 

Stihl, manufacturers of some of the biggest and most advanced saws on the planet, are always interested to educate the public on what the logging industry already know well. The uptake of proper safety gear has led to a dramatic decline in major injuries in what was once known as the most dangerous job in the forest. New technology in chainsaws themselves, with powerful and quick-acting chain brakes and systems to prevent ’bucking’ and chains sticking tight combines with material tech in items like safety chaps and nigh-impenetrable eye protection, mesh visored helmets, thick gloves and steel capped boots to create a suit of armour for the saw user. 

Chainsaw safety is partly about this full suite of protective items — including ear protection from the massive sound of the engine — and also about technique. Learning the right way to cut is just as important as the thick fibres, which clog the chain if you miss and hit your protective chaps, or the tempered lens coating, which stops wood splinters from striking your eyes. If you’re a novice — and this season will see a fair number of first-time chainsaw users, migrated from the city to enjoy the country life — don’t just settle for buying a great saw. Talk to the folks at your local chainsaw specialists about technique — they have web resources, brochures and tips from the forestry trade to make your work safer quicker and easier. 

Finally, remember that a sharp, lubricated and smooth-running chainsaw is safer than an old ‘rust bucket’. Give your machine a pre-winter tune-up to ensure a tight, free-running chain, sharp teeth and a reliable start. After all, without all of these things, you may be better off with the old-fashioned axe and hatchet. Chainsaw Safety Week runs through mid-May, but the best advice of your local pros — make it every week!