Are you afraid of your chainsaw? Honestly, I would hope that you aren’t afraid of it, but I truly hope that you respect it! Chainsaws and handsaws alike are both used to cut through some pretty hard stuff, whether it be a solid Red Oak limb or a stone hard dead American Elm. These two tools require your utmost attention when being used, and above all else, your respect! That’s why proper chainsaw training and handsaw safety are vital.
Last month we discussed leg protection when using chainsaws. Chainsaw protection is a pretty cool thing and it keeps us quite safe when using a chainsaw and, at times, when working around someone else using a chainsaw. Leg protection is a great way to keep yourself protected against the spinning teeth of the chainsaw blade, but there are other ways to keep you protected as well.
Proper Chainsaw Training
The best way to keep everyone on your crew that uses a chainsaw protected is through proper training. I’ve noticed that many times new chainsaw users hold a chainsaw like it’s a ticking time bomb or a new born baby! It’s as if the thing is going to blow their arm off at any moment, which if used wrong, totally could! Now other times, when we are conducting training, we see workers that have used a chainsaw for a long time and you would assume that they would be an expert at using a saw and that their technique would be refined and smooth. But we all know what happens when you assume, right?!?!
Some of the simple things that we teach new and seasoned chainsaw users are things like:
1. Never stand directly in the path of the bar. Keep the bar off to the right of your body and don’t stand directly over top of the saw.
2. Understand kickback and how kickback can ruin your face or life especially when you combine kick back with not following lesson 1.
3. Chainsaws are designed to be used right handed. That means your left hand goes on the back handle of the saw. Sorry lefties, get used to it.
4. The handle of the saw is designed to lay out your cuts for you. When the handle is held by the top, the saw should cut a line straight down (think bucking a log). When the handle is held by the corner, it should cut at a 45 degree angle (think notches). Lastly, when the handle is held by the side, it should make a level horizontal cut (think your bottom cut of a notch).
5. Anytime you are going to take more than two consecutive steps or one large movement, hit the chain brake. The chain brake is a very easy thing to use with a simple roll of the wrist and it can save you from a nasty cut especially from an improperly adjusted carburetor or idle speed.
Handsaws should also be respected, though they may not remove as much meat as a chainsaw, they will easily slice you open like a hog at the butcher. Handsaws like the Silkys or Fannos that we typically carry will slice through and throw chips from any limb you try to cut. If your arm, hand, finger, or knee get in the way of the blade, it won’t slow down!
Being aware of your surroundings when using a handsaw can really help to keep you (and your fingers) out of harms way. Most of the times that I have been cut with a handsaw was when I wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings or my own body. A really good tip for handsaw safety is ensuring users pay attention to how much wood you have left to cut! How many times have you cut right through that last little bit of wood with your handsaw cruising right along? Guess what? That handsaw is going to find a place to rest, and let’s hope it isn’t on your knee cap.
Handsaw scabbards are another thing to pay attention to. Many times we have seen scabbards that have been used for so long that the top is frayed and splayed right open. This allows the teeth of your handsaw to stick out of the top and when you inadvertently reach down to grab it, or when conditions are wet, your fingers can meet up with those nasty dirty teeth. Paying attention to your gear can save you some blood, frustration, and money!
Though this isn’t an exhaustive description of all the things we use for our chainsaw training and handsaw safety, it is a quick rundown of some important things to know about proper cutting tool usage. We would love to hear what else you have to say about using chainsaws in the comments below!