As you’re probably aware, a chainsaw can be extremely dangerous; it will cut through your arm or leg as easily (if not more easily) than a tree. The first time you use one will be nerve-wracking, but as long as you take the right precautions and ensure you are fully familiar with the saw, then you’ll be absolutely fine. So what are the appropriate precautions?
Know your saw
The best thing you can do when you unbox your chainsaw for the first time is to put it on a bench and then read the manual fully, twice. As you go through the manual look over the saw and make sure you can identify all the components from their description in the manual. Make absolutely certain that you know where all the safety features are and how to use them.
Clear the work area
Make sure you’ve got several metres of clear space around where you’re going to be working. If you’ve got an electric saw with a cord then check that it won’t get snagged on anything sitting between the work area and the power outlet. It’s worth walking around the are holding the saw and watching how the cable moves; whilst doing this make sure it is unplugged so you don’t start it by accident (pretty unlikely, but still worth checking). If you are preparing firewood then you’ll want a good sawhorse that will hold your logs steady. If you’re cutting down or pruning a tree then think through what your plan is. Make sure you’re not going to cut anything that will fall on you. Hold your saw (turned off) how you intend to perform the work and then think about whether you think it is safe. For example, unless you are a qualified professional, you do not want to be up a ladder using a chainsaw. If this is what you intend then considering using a pole saw instead.
Wear safety equipment
Ideally nothing bad will happen, but if you use your saw frequently then at some point you’ll lose concentration or something will go wrong with the saw. If you haven’t considered this and prepared then you’re going to end up with a serious injury; but if you have then the risk can be drastically reduced. At a minimum you should be wearing a helmet, gloves, thick clothing and sturdy boots. The helmet should be specifically designed for chainsaw use and will include ear defenders and a face mask to protect you from the noise and flying debris. The gloves should be thick but still allow easy movement – you may need to hit a safety device quickly. As far as the clothing goes consider investing in a pair of chaps, these are made of materials specifically designed to survive an impact from a saw whereas conventional clothing will be useless and instantly cut through (followed by your leg). You’ll want work boots with heavy duty steel toe caps to protect your feet.
So you’ve done all your preparation, you know every inch of your saw, the work area is spotless and you’re completely decked out in high-quality safety gear from head to toe. Before you start up your saw do one more thing. Tell someone where you are, what you’re doing and how long you expect to be. That way if everything goes wrong at least there’s someone who can check on you.
Be cautious when you use a chainsaw. It is a dangerous tool and is worthy of your respect. But if you do respect it and take the proper precautions then it will treat you well.