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Repair Center  Chainsaw Kickback and Safety Guidelines

Why Read This Article?

  • Information about chainsaw dangers.
  • Kickback prevention tips.
  • Safety guidelines and equipment.

Article Breakdown

  • Safety is especially important with chainsaws because they are such dangerous tools.
  • Many safety guidelines involve preventing injury from kickback.
Preventing Chainsaw Kickback
  • Kickback happens when the upper nose of the saw contacts material.
The Kickback Danger Zone
  • The upper nose of the chainsaw is called the Kickback Danger Zone.
  • Uses should always avoid contact with this area of the saw.
  • Some advanced cuts seem to break this rule, but they require training and experience.
  • Most chainsaw work can be done with simple up-cuts and down-cuts, without bar nose contact.
Kickback Prevention Pointers A short list of kickback pointers:
  • Only perform cuts you are trained for.
  • Keep your eyes on the saw.
  • Be material-minded.
  • Understand and use available safety features.
  • Use caution when cutting small material.
  • Keep chainsaws well-maintained and follow other safety guidelines.
Chainsaw Safety Equipment
  • safety helmet
  • protective eyewear
  • ear protection
  • all-in-one helmets
  • gloves
  • chainsaw chaps
  • heavy boots
  • felling wedges
Chainsaw Safety Do's and Don'ts Do's:

General:

  • Read instructions, keep work area clean and clear of bystanders, clean saw before use, and use good judgment.

Maintenance:

  • Follow guidelines in manual, frequently check tool, use correct components, and keep the saw sharp and lubricated.

Cutting:

  • Keep a firm grip, run at full speed, stand to the side, and cut below shoulder level.
Don'ts:
  • Do not operate a chainsaw in any of the ways listed here.

Chainsaw Kickback and Safety Guidelines

October 12, 2009
This article explains safety guidelines and equipment for chainsaw use, and how to avoid injury from chainsaw kickback.
Understanding and following safety guidelines is important for any machine or power tool, but because of the risk of kickback and other dangers involved in chainsaw operation, following safety procedures for chainsaws is especially important. No one has to be a horror movie buff to have a healthy respect for the kinds of injuries caused by chainsaw accidents. Just a little common sense points to the potential hazard of dozens and dozens of sharp cutting teeth turning around a saw's guide bar at freeway speeds. Scary talk aside, it's not hard to operate a chainsaw safely when maintenance and safety measures are followed. A little thinking about the material being cut and approaching chainsaw use with a cautious attitude also go a long way toward avoiding accidents and injury. When it comes to chainsaw safety (especially concerning professional safety guidelines and techniques), there's enough information to fill books. This article offers basic, general safety guidelines for average chainsaw use that most owners will encounter. Many of the guidelines for chainsaw safety involve preventing kickback with safety features and proper technique.   Preventing Chainsaw Kickback Chainsaw Kickback happens when the upper nose of a chainsaw comes in contact with the wood being cut. When the teeth (spinning along the guide bar) touch the material on this part of the chainsaw's nose, the nose of the chainsaw instantly rebounds back in the direction of the user. This is one of the major causes of chainsaw accidents.   The Kickback Danger Zone The upper nose of a chainsaw is called the "Kickback Danger Zone" for this reason. Kickback Danger Zone Users should never allow the chainsaw to come into contact with any material in this area of a chainsaw. This is the best way to prevent chainsaw kickback and avoid injuries. There are several techniques used in logging and other professional applications that involve breaking the Kickback Danger Zone Rule. Anyone who has caught a logging competition or reality show on television has probably seen some fancy cutting, like boring cuts, where the nose of a chainsaw is completely driven into the center of a tree or log, or felling a large tree with a chainsaw whose guide bar is much shorter than the tree's diameter. These types of cuts require special training to perform safely and can be very dangerous to attempt. The majority of chainsawers won't have a call for cuts like these, so the best rule of thumb is to simply avoid ever making contact with the Kickback Danger Zone. Simple "up-cuts" and "down-cuts" get most chainsawing jobs done, but the risk of kickback is still present with simple cuts. [Back to top]   Kickback Prevention Pointers Here's a shortlist of additional guidelines for preventing kickback:
  • Perform Only Cuts You Are Trained For

Boring cuts and other techniques where the nose of the saw is used or at high risk to make contact with material should only be attempted with the right instruction and experience.

  • Keep Your Eyes on the Saw

Often, chainsaw users will be very careful while cutting, but then temporarily shift their attention from the saw between cuts as they're moving between cutting positions. It is very common for users to nick the upper nose of the saw on a branch or other object between cuts, resulting in kickback or other loss of tool control.

Keeping eyes on the saw at all times will prevent this kind of kickback accident.

  • Be Material-Minded

Kickback often happens when the nose of a chainsaw gets pinched during a cut.

For example, if a log or board is propped up off the ground, a simple down-cut straight through the material will cause the material to lean into the kerf about halfway through the cut, pinching the nose of the chainsaw. When cutting material is elevated, the down-cut should only be continued a little less than halfway through. Then, an up-cut from the bottom should complete the cut, allowing the two halves to fall without pinching the saw and risking an accident.

Other kickback accidents occur that involve the material itself, not just how the material shifts when cut. Some logs or wood are violently twisted and holding a lot of tension, especially naturally fallen logs. Cutting through these areas will sometimes release the tension and quickly change the orientation of material around the working end of the saw. There are several hazards associated with kind of situation and kickback is one of them.

The idea is to be aware of what's happening with the material. Get a feel for it before making major cuts, and think about how the cuts will affect how it falls, its orientation, and how it might pinch the saw.

  • Understand and Use Available Safety Features

Chainsaws are available with a number of features for reducing the risk and severity of kickback accidents. These safety features include: chainbrakes, hand guards, throttle lockouts, and low-kickback chains.

For more information about Chainsaw Chains and Features--Click here.

  • Re-Enter Cuts Very Carefully

This is another time when it is very easy for kickback to occur.

  • Use Caution When Cutting Small Material

    Smaller material can get caught in the chain, or be easily overlooked and cause kickback.

    • Keep Chainsaws Well-Maintained and Follow Other Safety Guidelines

    Although the other safety and maintenance tips in this article are not listed specifically for preventing kickback, they all contribute to overall safety, kickback included. Maintenance is especially important to kickback prevention, as a loose chain or incorrectly-set depth gauge can also cause kickback accidents. [Back to top]   Chainsaw Safety Equipment Here's a list of personal chainsaw safety equipment, and a little information about each item:

    Safety Helmet:

    A typical hardhat safety helmet should be worn when using a chainsaw to protect against flying debris and kickback injury.

    Protective Eyewear:

    Safety eyewear should always be worn when chainsawing. Some eye protection made specifically for chainsaw use is more of a complete face shield.

    Ear Protection:

    Chainsawing is very loud and exceeds safety recommendations for noise. Hearing protection should always be worn to protect against hearing loss.

    All-in-One Helmets:

    All-in-one helmets are available that include hearing protection, eye/face protection, and a hardhat. A very nice way to keep it all in one place.

    Gloves:

    Gloves will protect the hands from debris and injury in the event of a chain break or slip. Just as importantly, gloves will help maintain a good grip on the chainsaw.

    Chainsaw Chaps:

    Safety clothing for chainsawing is made out of the same material as bullet-proof vests, but instead of being woven to protect against the impact of a bullet, they are woven with long fibers that bind up a chainsaw chain when contacted.

    Cutting a leg when finishing a cut is probably the most common type of chainsaw injury, and that's why a good pair of protective chaps is important. Chainsaw jackets are also available.

    Heavy Boots:

    Tough work boots are a must for chainsawing since things tend to drop in the process. Steel-toed boots provide very good protection. Boots will also protect a user's feet if control of the chainsaw is lost and it is dropped.

    Felling Wedges:

    Felling wedges are a chainsawer's best friend when bringing trees down. Felling wedges prop up the cut side of trees while the other side is being cut, so that the tree doesn't fall before being completely sawed or fall in the wrong direction. Even if the feller is not in the path of the falling tree, the uncut wood can split and cause injury. Felling wedges are indispensable for bringing trees down safely. [Back to top]   Chainsaw Safety Do's and Don'ts
    Do's:

    General:

    • Completely read and understand instructions and safety guidelines in the chainsaw's user manual.
    • Chainsaws should always be carried with their motors stopped.
    • Completely clean and clear work areas before beginning to cut.
    • When felling trees, always clear the work area and the retreat path around the tree before cutting.
    • Be sure that bystanders are far enough away before beginning.
    • Clean the saw thoroughly before use, making sure to wipe away oil and any other liquid from the grip bars.
    • Use good judgment.
     

    Maintenance:

    • Properly maintaining a chainsaw is one of the best ways to prevent accidents and extend the life of the saw.
    • A full check of the chainsaw should be done before each use.
    • All instructions in the user manual regarding service, sharpening and other maintenance should be followed.
    • It is especially important that the correct parts and size chain are used in repairs and replacements.
    • Keeping chains sharp and at the correct tension will greatly reduce accidents and injury.
    • Always consult qualified professionals or other repairmen when unsure about a saw's condition, performing a repair, or maintenance concerns.
    • Keep the chain well lubricated.
     

    Cutting:

    • Only attempt cuts within the scope of your training and experience.
    • To avoid injury, keep as much of your body out of the saw's cutting path as possible by standing to the side.
    • Because chainsaws are designed to be ran at full speed, keeping them at full throttle while cutting will make for smoother, safer work. This increased work speed also reduces user fatigue, another safety concern.
    • Keep a very firm grip on the saw during operation with fingers and thumbs wrapped around the grip bars as much as possible.
      Dont's:
    • Do not use chainsaws when fatigued, drowsy, or under the effects of prescription medication and/or non-prescription drugs.
    • Do not attempt cuts, maintenance, or repairs if you are unsure.
    • Do not operate a chainsaw when elevated, like on a ladder or up in a tree, unless you have special training to do so.
    • Do not attempt cuts above shoulder height. Losing control of the saw is very easy in an awkward position like trying to cut overhead.
    • Do not use a chainsaw in cold weather without special preparation, equipment, and know-how.
    • Do not ever cut anything other than wood with a chainsaw.
    • Do not allow dirt to get in the chain of a chainsaw.
    • Do not perform any maintenance, checks, adjustments, or repairs while the saw's engine is still running.
    [Back to top]
    Conclusion Preventing bar nose kickback, being aware of the material, gearing up for safety, and using good judgement are the keys to safe chainsawing. Users should be familiar with the safety suggestions in this article and other safety information specific to their chainsaw before the cutting starts. At eReplacementParts.com, we carry parts and accessories for chainsaws that promote chainsaw safety, like low-kickback chains. Making necessary parts replacements and repairs will help a saw cutting safely and extend its life. To find parts for your chainsaw repair or parts replacement, visit our Chainsaw Parts and Chainsaw Chain pages.
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