Guide to The Safe Use Of Chainsaws

Guide to The Safe Use Of Chainsaws

This section provides guidance on the safe use of chainsaws

Using the Chainsaw

Safe Use Of Chainsaws is very important, so read this short guide as a pointer on the subject. The chainsaw is designed for use by right-handed operators and
must be used in a right-handed manner. The right hand should be
on the throttle with the left hand holding the handle, with the left
thumb under this handle at all times.
Make sure that you know where the controls are located, you
understand their function and they are in good working order. You
may have to stop the chainsaw quickly in an emergency.
Make sure that the chainsaw is properly maintained. In particular,
ensure that the air filter is clean, the engine is properly tuned and that
the chain is correctly sharpened.

Safe Use Of Chainsaws

To prepare to start the engine, hold the saw firmly in position at
ground level on a level surface by putting the right foot on the
handle and make sure the chain is clear. Hold the front handle
with the left hand and pull the starter cord with your right hand.
Apply the chain brake when the chainsaw is not cutting, this is done
by letting the engine revs drop to idle and applying the chain brake
with the back of the left hand, by rolling the hand on the
front handle.
Never use the chainsaw above shoulder height or when off balance.
Chainsaws should never be used when standing on a ladder unless
the operator is a trained tree surgeon and the ladder is securely tied
in position.
Chainsaw operators should always be alert and aware of
potential dangers.
Do not use a chainsaw if you are tired.
Chainsaws are designed for one-person operation only.
Maintain a safe distance from other persons i.e. a minimum of
twice the height of the tree being felled.
Containers for chainsaw fuel must be clearly labeled. Keep a safe
distance from ignition sources when fuelling the chainsaw.
Avoid working alone when operating a chainsaw. If this is not
possible, put in place procedures to raise the alarm if something
goes wrong (for example, the use of a mobile phone).
Shut off the engine before moving from one area to another.
Never leave the chainsaw unattended while idling.

Safety Checks

safely cut down trees with a chainsaw
Your chainsaw should be fitted with the following devices to ensure
safe operation:
A clearly marked on/off switch.
Chain brake (incorporating a front-hand guard).
Safety dead handle throttle.
Chain catcher.
Rear hand guard.
Anti-vibration mounts.
Exhaust system to direct fumes away from the operator.
Chain cover for transportation.
An adequate tool kit for preventative and corrective maintenance.

Maintenance of Chainsaws

• Saws should be properly maintained in accordance with
the manufacturer’s recommendations.
• Chainsaws should be inspected regularly by a competent person.
Check the saw periodically throughout the day.
• Special attention should be paid to chain sharpening and chain
tension as otherwise chain breakage can occur possibly leading to a
serious injury.
Training in Safe Use of the Chainsaw
If used incorrectly the chainsaw is one of the most dangerous pieces of
equipment to use. Due to the hazardous nature of working with
chainsaws, it is recommended that persons receive appropriate training
from a competent training provider. Alternatively, a competent person
should be contracted to complete the work.
Personal Protective Equipment
Using chainsaws exposes operators to high levels of noise and hand arm
vibration which can lead to hearing loss and conditions such as
vibration white finger. It is very important that suitable protective
clothing and equipment should be worn when using a chainsaw, no
matter how small the job. Modern personal protective equipment
(PPE) is easy to wear, long-lasting, and could prevent death or serious
injury. However, PPE cannot provide complete protection against cuts
from chainsaws.

The following safety equipment should be available and used

Chainsaw gloves with a protective pad on the back of the left hand,
leg protection incorporating clogging material
• Safety boots with steel toecaps and a good grip.
• Non-snag close-fitting outer clothing.
• Chainsaw trousers.
• First aid kit (including large wound dressing).
Chainsaw Kickback
Kickback occurs when the tip of the guide bar comes into contact with
a solid object (such as a log or branch) at the upper tip of the guide
bar. It is responsible for a significant proportion of chainsaw accidents.

Chainsaw Kickback

chainsaw kickback area
Kickback occurs when the tip of the guide bar comes into contact with
a solid object (such as a log or branch) at the upper tip of the guide
bar. It is responsible for a significant proportion of chainsaw accidents.

Great care must be taken to avoid this area of the chainsaw touching
any object or obstruction. Kickback results in the guide bar of the
chainsaw suddenly moving violently upward. It can cause severe
lacerations to the head, face, neck, shoulder, and arms.
To avoid kickback:
• Hold the saw firmly using both hands, the thumb of the left hand
should be under the handle.
• Stand firmly and do not over-reach.
• Never cut above shoulder height.
• The left arm should be straight before cutting; this will help to
divert the saw over one’s body in the event of kickback.
• Never begin cutting with the upper half of the nose of the blade.
Watch out for branches, logs, or other materials that could come into
contact with the guide bar while cutting.
• Never run the engine slowly at the start or during cutting as this can
lead to kickback. Cut only on full power.
• Ensure that proper chainsaw maintenance is carried out.
Starting the Chainsaw
• From Cold: Place the chainsaw on level ground. Put one foot on the
rear handle plate and the left hand on the front handle. Pull the
starter cord firmly.
• From Hot: Use the same method as for cold start but without using
the choke or the half throttle stop controls. Alternatively, grip the
rear handle firmly between the knees and grip the front handle
with the left hand. Pull the starter cord firmly.

Risk Assessment

Always carry out a risk assessment before commencing work with a
Refer to the Farm Safety Code of Practice Risk Assessment document
for further information.
The Risk Assessment should contain:
• Identified hazards – check the complete worksite to identify
potential hazards.
For example Potential hang-ups, overhead power lines, and children.
• Evaluated risks – the risk should be assessed.
For example, Children in the area are high risk.
• Safety Control measures – should be implemented before work
For example, Children stay out of the exclusion zone.
• All involved with the work must comply with the controls identified.
Emergency procedures should also be in place. For example mobile
phone with pre-loaded numbers, first-aid kits, etc
The Risk assessment must be communicated to all persons involved in
the work.

Felling timber

how to fell a tree
This section deals with basic tree felling using a chainsaw. It does not
deal with exceptional or difficult situations or the felling of large trees
where specialist advice and competence will be required.
Before felling any tree, make sure that you have the necessary
competence to complete the task safely. You will need good judgment and quick reactions to use a chainsaw safely.

• When felling a tree consider factors such as the wind, the natural
lean of the tree, the location of large limbs, and whether the trunk is
sound, hollow, or partially rotted. Watch for the presence of dead
limbs overhead and for the presence of overhead power lines in
the vicinity.
• Plan the work to minimize manual handling.
• Before felling a tree, decide on its direction of fall and select a
suitable escape route to the rear and diagonal to the line of fall of a
tree. The area directly behind the tree is also a danger zone because
the tree may bounce or slide back when it hits the ground. The
escape route should always be kept clear of obstructions.
• Felling is a one-person operation.
• Ensure that any bystanders are at a safe distance for the tree felling
operation. Persons in the vicinity should be at least two tree lengths
away from the person operating the chainsaw.
• Clear any undergrowth likely to interfere with the operator and the
chainsaw and remove any dead material that could catch fire.
• Make sure your foothold is secure and free from any obstruction. If
working on sloping groundwork from an uphill position.
• Hold the saw firmly with both hands.
• Make sure you have the necessary equipment close to hand in case it
is needed during the felling work. Such equipment would include a
breaker bar, alloy or plastic wedges, and a sledgehammer.
• If a tree is likely to become hung up on another tree during felling,
you will need to have the competence and the equipment to bring
the hung-up tree down safely. Seek expert help if necessary.

• Lopping branches off trees and working on ditches is extremely
dangerous. The Chainsaw operator may be tempted to work in
dangerous positions and use the saw above shoulder height.
Therefore this type of work should only be carried out by a skilled
and competent operator.
When felling a tree less than the diameter of the guide bar:
• Cut a notch one-third of the diameter of the trunk at a right angle
to the fall. The back cut (main felling cut) should be at least 25 mm
higher than the notch and leave a hinge of uncut wood to guide the
tree and control the rate and direction of fall.
• The hinge must have the same thickness from end to end to direct
the fall at right angles to the notch.
• If there is any chance that the tree might not fall over in the desired
direction or may rock back and bind the saw and stop cutting before the
back cut is completed and switch off the engine.
• Use wooden, plastic, or aluminum wedges (never hard metal) to
open the cut and tilt the tree in the desired direction of fall. Never
cut through the hinge.

• Once a felling cut has been started on a tree the tree must not be
left standing.
• When the tree begins to fall, step back and to the side into the
escape route. Look out for falling branches and tops.
• Beware of branches under tension and watch out for them
springing back. When a branch is in tension when cut the timber
could spring and cause injury or death.
• When lopping make a preliminary cut underneath the branch and
then complete the cut from the top.
• Never stand astride a felled tree when cutting off the branches. If
the tree is lying across a slope never stand on the lower side if there
is any risk of it rolling.
• When cutting lengths of timber, for example cutting firewood,
ensure that the timber is securely supported at about waist height
to allow room for the blade to cut.
• When cross-cutting make sure no one comes closer than five meters
or within twice the length of the longest piece of timber.

• Trees with diameters greater than the diameter of the guide bar
should only be felled by persons properly trained in the safe
procedures for this type of operation.

So there you go just a short guide on the Safe Use Of Chainsaws, please read up as much as you can on all safety aspects before using your chainsaw.

One comment

  1. Dave Hill

    Good guide for using Stihl chainsaws found it helpful, do you have the Stihl MS 280 Service Manual for my chainsaw, as I am unable to find anywhere else for this manual, thanks

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