How to Use a Chainsaw Safely
Chainsaws can be an incredibly useful garden tool. They can be used to chop down trees, and to cut up the wood to use in a log burner or open fire – you could even sell those logs to your neighbors! But before you get started you need to take certain safety precautions. In reality, all tools have some potential to inflict harm – hammers can squash thumbs and slipped wrenches can inflict skinned knuckles, but chainsaws bring the potential for injury to a whole new level. Chainsaws essentially work by taking the razor sharp metal teeth of a regular saw, and moving them at incredible speeds. They can also spit out small pieces of wood at high velocity. Then there’s the tree you’re cutting down; branches can be under tremendous tension, and may spring when cut like a rifle shot. An improperly felled tree can, at best, flatten that bed of petunias; at worst, flatten you. All that said, it’s more than possible to use a chainsaw to help clear your garden – you just need to stay safe and minimise the risks. Here’s a guide to help you do just that.
Wear Protective Equipment
Let’s start with the basics: the kit that you need to wear to keep you protected. Any time that you operate a chainsaw you need to wear eye protection, ear protection, good sturdy boots, thick full-length trousers such as heavy jeans, a long sleeve shirt and gloves. You should also invest in a pair of chainsaw chaps; they’re made of multiple layers of Kevlar beneath the nylon outer shell. If the saw chain hits and penetrates the shell, the Kevlar first resists the cutting action, but then the fibers are pulled into the saw’s sprocket, stopping the spinning chain in just a few seconds. Your legs are pretty much the most vulnerable body part when you’re using a chainsaw, so these are worth their weight in gold. A hard-hat is usually also a good idea if you’re felling – cutting down an upright tree. If you like you can even buy specific chainsaw helmets that have an attached flip-up, mesh face shield and flip-up ear muffs. All of this might seem a little overkill for your back garden, but it’s vital that you’re protecting your body, as you’re operating serious machinery.
Prepare the Area
Once you’ve taken the steps above to protect yourself, you need to make sure you’re working in a safe environment – particularly when felling. Look up, down, and around the area. Is there an escape route for you to take for when the tree falls? Is there a clear path for the tree to fall? If it goes in an unintended direction, what would be the consequence — just a flowerbed, or the roof of your house? Is the tree weakened by bugs or disease? Is the wind blowing from the direction that you want the tree to fall? Once you’ve assessed all this you have to be honest and ask yourself whether you’re confident and happy that this is a safe environment and situation in which to saw. If you’re not – don’t! You can always get a professional in, or wait for better conditions on another day. Getting the job done safely is far more important than getting it done right now.