- Did you know?
- For beginners
- General safety precautions
- A safe environment
- Safe starting
- Safe chainsaw operation
- Avoiding kickback
- Avoid jamming
- Safety controls
- Preventing fire
- Personal protective equipment
- Field maintenance
- Maintenance after use
- For specialists only - tree felling
- The main risks
- Safe felling advice
- High risk trees
- Safety and health responsibility
- A chainsaw in untrained hands is a lethal weapon. Most injuries are deep gashes to the hands, knees, feet and head. In logging operations, chainsaw injuries are as common to the head, shoulders and upper arms as to the hands, legs and feet.
- The first line of defence against injury is instruction and training, under the supervision of a trained and experienced person.
- The sharper the chain, the safer the job. A blunt chain requires more effort and increases fatigue, both of which can lead to kickback accidents.
- The major injury risk is from kick-back, the violent reaction triggered when the upper quadrant of the chain bar tip meets resistance.
- Even modern safety features, such as the chain brake and inertia brake, cannot be guaranteed to prevent kickback injury, which can happen faster than human reflexes. The safest way is to avoid kickback situations.
- More than 50 people are injured by chainsaws at work in WA each year
If you're buying or intending to operate a chainsaw for the first time, start on one with a short chain bar, 30 to 40cm long. However even a person starting with a small bar chainsaw requires initial instruction, training and supervision, and a sound knowledge of basic maintenance and safe work procedures.
A formal chainsaw course is best, but minimum training can be provided by an experienced person, preferably one who has received formal training.
Together you should go through the manufacturer's manual following the steps of starting and stopping, using the chain brake when not cutting, correct safe grips and stances, correct sharpening, and simple cutting exercises on pieces of felled timber.
The period of instruction should be long enough to ensure the trainee has a good understanding of all aspects of safe chainsaw operation - and should possibly include an hour's exposure to normal operating conditions and methods.
Certificated chainsaw courses are compulsory for all forest industry workers who use chainsaws in their work. Courses are also available for non-forestry workers, such as farmers and council workers.
Read the manufacturer's chainsaw manual from cover to cover and ensure you understand the manual.
- Check your chainsaw thoroughly before every use.
- Make sure the bar, chain and sprocket are in top condition.
- Check that bar oil is flowing and the chain brake is working.
- Sharpen your chainsaw and top up with bar oil each time you stop to re-fill with fuel.
- Always wear suitable protective clothing.
- Never use the saw to cut anything above shoulder height (Between knee and waist-high is safest.)
- Never operate the saw beyond your ability.
- Carry a chainsaw with the motor off and the saw blade pointing to the rear.
- Always have a properly equipped first aid box with you.
- Keep other people and animals away from the working area.
- Make sure there is a second person within calling distance.
- Use the saw to cut only wood.
- If tired, stop the saw and rest a little.
- Avoid using a chainsaw in wet or windy conditions or in poor light.
- Wait a few minutes for the motor to cool before refuelling.
You should always cold-start a chainsaw on the ground. Get down on your left knee, with the toe of your right boot firmly on the base plate of the trigger guard. Have the chain brake off, as you will be using the choke in cold starting.
You should NEVER "drop-start" a chainsaw by thrusting the saw down with your left hand and pulling the starter cord up with your right. (This is an extremely hazardous practice.)
The approved safe way to warm-start a chainsaw while standing is by bracing the trigger guard between your knees, ensuring the chain brake is engaged, and keeping your left forearm rigid while pulling the starter cord with your right hand.
You should always choose a flat piece of ground, clear of debris, before cold-starting a chainsaw on the ground.
While cutting, always:
- run the chainsaw motor at full revs. This makes the job safer, as there is less chance of pull-in or kick-back;
- position your body to the left of the chainsaw so if it kicks back uncontrollably, it goes over your right shoulder;
- keep a firm grip with your left hand on the front handle, with your thumb securely below the handle. The swivel of your wrist in a kick-back situation will activate the chain brake;
- make sure the chain is tensioned correctly; and
- observe the size of wood shavings. (If they become dusty your chain could need sharpening).
To avoid kickback:
- be constantly aware of the position of the upper quadrant of the blade tip. (This is the part that triggers a kickback when it hits resistance);
- never engage the upper quadrant of the guide bar with whatever you are cutting and avoid contact with any hidden branches or obstructions. Ensure there is a clear work area;
- always clear away brush, vegetation and any obstructing debris before attempting a cut that might trigger a kickback; and
- avoid cuts that will cause the chainsaw to jam in a tree trunk or limb.
8. Avoid jamming
To avoid jamming the saw:
- always cut into the compression wood first until the cut starts to close;
- always make the compression cut beneath if the log or limb is suspended from one end, (and on top if it is supported at both ends);
- cut from the other side towards the compression cut; and
- make a habit of using a wedge to prevent the compression cut jamming tight on the chainsaw blade.
To maintain safety control:
- hold the chainsaw firmly, making sure the left hand encircles the top handle squarely, with the thumb underneath;
- ensure the chainsaw is fitted with a chain brake - preferably inertia activated; and
- always set the depth gauge in accordance with manufacturers' recommendations (refer to operator's manual).
To avoid starting a fire:
- never smoking while filling or operating the saw;
- refuel in a clean area;
- refuel the saw only after the motor has cooled down (e.g., after re-sharpening.);
- make sure fuel caps are screwed on tight and any fuel spillage is wiped off;
- move at least three metres away from the fuelling area before starting;
- use only safety-approved fuel containers which comply with AS/NZS 2906: 2001; and
- keep a fire extinguisher, knapsack spray or water pump and shovel nearby.
When using a chainsaw, always wear personal protective equipment that complies with the relevant Australian / New Zealand Standards:
- either a face shield or safety glasses;
- a safety helmet;
- approved ear plugs or muffs;
- safety boots with non-slip soles; and
- leg protection (safety trousers or 'chaps').
When using a chainsaw for extensive cutting, always have nearby:
- a supply of ready-mixed two-stroke fuel;
- bar oil;
- tools for tightening the chain - or removing the drive sprocket outer casing to clean out debris - or re-seat the chain should it dislodge;
- cloth or absorbent material to wipe any spilt fuel or oil from the chainsaw after refuelling;
- a file and file guide for sharpening the chain after every refuel;
- some sort of portable vice to grip the chain bar during sharpening; and
- a small brush to regularly clean the air filter and around the chain sprocket.
- store fuel and tools at least 10 metres from where you are cutting; and
- choose a flat place for tools and fuel, where the ground is free from flammable vegetation.
After completing chainsaw work, always:
- reverse the chain bar, top to bottom, to avoid wear on one side;
- clean out the groove on the chain bar;
- clean the chainsaw, particularly the air filter, cooling inlets and inside the sprocket cover; and
- clean the chain brake mechanism.
Have your chainsaw serviced regularly - say once every six months.
In this information bulletin, tree felling is covered only briefly, because from an occupational safety perspective it should not be attempted without special chainsaw and felling training.
As well as having to make particularly accurate and defined cuts that vary greatly according to the type of tree being felled, the felling of trees presents additional hazards, related to the risk of falling trees and limbs.
Even trained, experienced fellers who fell trees for a living are required to undergo retraining if supervision shows they are overlooking any fine points of safety.
This item is mainly about cutting logs and timber that is already felled. The following section is about tree felling, which should not be attempted without special training.
- The main risks in tree felling are from falling trees and limbs, rather than chainsaw injury.
- It is important to check the work area for hazards before you start felling or cutting. Look for overhead hazards and branches of other trees likely to be contacted as the tree falls.
- Check no other person is likely to be affected or put at risk by work you are about to do.
- Check no children are in the work area.
- Do not work in adverse weather conditions such as heavy winds, rain or poor light.
- Ensure your work area is clear of debris or obstructions, and you have a stable footing while cutting.
- Do not over-reach or work off balance. Stand comfortably close to the job.
- Shut off the saw before carrying it. Carry it by the front handle, with the chain bar pointing to the rear. Don't carry a chainsaw on your shoulder.
If you are felling trees:-
- place warning signs prior to commencing work;
- keep other people at least three tree lengths away;
- always ensure there are two escape routes at approximately 45 degrees backward of the chosen line of fall;
- always check tree tops for branches (widow makers) that may dislodge and fall into the work area or escape paths as the tree falls; and
- wedges are indispensable in directional felling, or to hold open cuts that may bind or pinch the chain bar.
Felling of the following trees is particularly hazardous:
- trees with a heavy lean;
- a tree propped or leaning against another tree, or under tension;
- abnormally large trees;
- trees on steep terrain or unstable ground; and
- trees with hollow, split or otherwise defective trunks.
And remember: Small trees can be just as dangerous to fell as big trees.
The safety and health of all employers, employees, self employed people and other people at a workplace (it can be a bush site or a farm fence) is covered by occupational safety and health legislation.
If the chainsaw owner is an employer, and the chainsaw is used by an employee, it is the employer's responsibility under the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 to provide a safe working environment and to introduce safe work procedures to prevent employees being exposed to hazards.
The employer must also provide adequate information, instruction, training and supervision to enable employees to work in a safe manner.
Employees must follow instruction and training provided, must use the personal protective equipment provided, and must point out hazards to their supervisor.
Self employed people must take reasonable care for their own safety and health and of others in or near the workplace. This includes people like farmers, who are major users of chainsaws.
Hire service managers should, as far as practicable, provide safety information, preferably with a safety demonstration, to customers hiring chainsaws.
A first aid box should be kept close by when a chainsaw is being used. The box should contain the sort of bandages and absorbent padding needed to deal with a major chainsaw injury.
Under occupational safety and health law, an employer must consult and co-operate with employees and safety and health representatives, if any are elected, on occupational safety and health matters at the workplace. Employees must report to the employer any situations believed to be a hazard or likely to cause injury or harm, that they are unable to correct.