Be smart about chainsaw safety or you'll lose an arm and a leg!!!
Chainsaw safety is paramount when cutting firewood. Without the proper knowledge, a chainsaw can be a very dangerous implement. I've spent the last 7 years using a chainsaw on almost a daily basis. Let me share with you some of the mistakes I've seen in the hopes that you won't make the same mistakes.
The most important thing is that you protect yourself with the proper gear. Chainsaw chaps, helmet and eye protection are the three items you should always wear while cutting wood. It is also a good idea to wear chainsaw safety boots or at least steel-toe boots when cutting.
Chaps are the first line of defense for your legs. They are designed to bind up the chain when they come in contact with a saw. Believe me, they work! Chaps have saved me several times from a serious leg injury.
Helmets are important for obvious reasons, you have to protect your melon! They are especially important when felling trees. Loose limbs or other debris can be caught up in the tree you're felling. Often times you can't see this debris until it's too late.
Last but not least, wear eye protection. When cutting, it is common for little bits of wood to come flying at your face. Protect yourself with safety glasses to avoid this from happening. I've seen and heard of serious eye injuries happening because someone thought that wearing chaps was all that was needed for protection.
5 Keep it Simple Rules to Staying Safe
Kickback is what happens when the top part of the bar tip is used when cutting. When this happens, the saw flies back towards you. You can't stop it by being a tough guy and muscling it away from you. Truth be told, it happens too quickly to be able to react at all.
The secret to avoid this from happening it to never use the top half of the saw tip. If you are a total beginner, it may be a good idea to not use the tip of the saw at all.
Luckily, saws made today all come with a chainbreak feature. The chainbreak is the lever at the top of the saw that stops the chain from moving. When the saw kicks back, the chainbreak is engaged from coming in contact with your arm. Make sure your chainbreak is functional. If you are using an older saw, it may not have a chainbreak- Be extra careful if you are using a saw without one!
Maintain Good Footing
Pretty obvious, huh? Well, a lot of chainsaw safety revolves around using common sense. Is is really a good idea to be using a saw with razor sharp teeth when you can't even keep your balance? Of course not!
Being off balance is a recipe for disaster. If you have to cut on steep or slippery ground, take your time and cut deliberately.
Don't be a Cowboy
A chainsaw is not meant to be swung around like some kind of a lasso. Smashing your saw into wood isn't going to make it cut any faster. Use the saw properly and let the machine do the work for you. Chainsaw safety is about using the saw properly, not looking cool in front of your friends and neighbors.
Have your chainsaw working properly
When a chainsaw isn't properly adjusted, a dangerous situation can happen in an instant. For example, I've used chainsaws before that simply wouldn't idle. They would stall out unless you continued to rev the engine. If you have a saw with a similar problem, get it fixed before trying to use it. It simply isn't worth the risk of running around with a chainsaw like that.
Another important factor is to have a properly sharpened chain. A chain has cutting teeth and rakers. When the rakers are set too low, the saw becomes very aggresive. This can cause kickback and generally unsafe conditions. If you don't know how to properly sharpen your saw, take it to a professional and have extra chains around to swap when one becomes dull.
Mind your surrounding
Pay attention to what you are cutting. Especially when bucking up firewood that is already on the ground. Is there anything behind it? Rocks, another log, another person? Be mindful of these things and you'll be on your way to safe and productive experience.
If you can follow these chainsaw safety guidelines, you'll be much better off when processing your firewood. The only other piece of advice I have is to always have respect for the saw and use common sense. Good luck!
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