Chainsaws have made the intense and laborious task of cutting trees much easier. These machines can be dangerous machines, however, and the proper chainsaw safety guidelines must be followed to ensure a safe tree-cutting experience.

In this guide, we will explore everything there is to know about chainsaw safety. From general rules everyone should know and follow to safety tips about chainsaw use that most might not be aware of, we will cover it. But first, it’s important to understand what a chainsaw is and how it works. Let’s find out.

What Are Chainsaws and How Do They Work?

The first patent for the production of the chainsaw was granted to Samuel J. Bens on January 17, 1905. As is the case with most new inventions, there were some major concerns. Bens’ concerns were focused on the machine’s ability to saw due to its massive size and having a reliable power source. He noted that his chainsaw needed to be “furnished with driving power, such as a steam-engine, gas-engine, or motor of any kind.”

Two decades later, in 1921, Bens filed another patent for a new, portable style of the chainsaw. He noted that this new portable version of the chainsaw “aims to provide a simple, compact, durable, and efficient machine capable of being easily handled by a couple of operators to rapidly and expeditiously cut logs or trees irrespective of the position, and one which can be readily conveyed from place to place.”

What Are the Components of a Chainsaw?

A chainsaw has two main components. The first is a saw blade built into a chain that is wrapped around a long metal guide bar. The second component is the power source. This power source can either be in the form of a single-cylinder gasoline engine or an electric motor powered by a battery pack or cord. The chain, similar in functionality to a bicycle chain, runs around gears that turn the chain. These gears are referred to as sprockets. The chain contains 30 sharp teeth which run in intervals.

Inside the gasoline engine, the piston moves in and out of the cylinder. This movement pushes a connecting rod which turns the crankshaft of the chainsaw. The crankshaft turns the gears connected to one of the sprockets. This chain of events allows the chain to spin.

How Do Chainsaws Work?

When you add fuel to your chainsaw, it provides enough energy, in chemical form, to cut trees or logs. A typical chainsaw holds half of a liter of gasoline. This gasoline feeds into a carburetor where it mixes with air. This air-fuel mixture works its way into a cylinder. This cylinder moves with a simple push-pull, or two-stroke, motion. During this process, the air-fuel mix is ignited by a spark plug. After the air-fuel mix burns, the process repeats itself.

A connecting rod and crank convert this motion of the piston into rotary motion. A driveshaft carries this power to a centrifugal clutch. Although the engine of a chainsaw is always spinning, it is not always cutting while spinning. This is because of the clutch.

When engaged by the operator, the clutch connects the engine and the chain which allows the chainsaw to cut. Specialized gears carry the power from the clutch to the sprocket which holds the chain. The chain spins around the edge of the guide bar, a long steel plate, spitting out sawdust as it works.

General Chainsaw Safety Rules Everyone 

Should Follow

Workman with chainsaw over white background

​Image source: freepik

​Now that we have a better understanding of what a chainsaw is and how it works, let’s cover general chainsaw safety rules that everyone should follow. These rules are essential for a having a safe chainsaw experience.

Safety Gear and Stance

​When operating a chainsaw, it is vital to wear the appropriate safety gear. This safety gear includes boots, gloves, chaps, ear protection, and eye protection. When you have your gear on and are ready to cut, stand properly using the boxer stance.

If you are right-handed, this means putting your left foot slightly in front at a 45-degree angle, while keeping your right foot slightly behind.  If you are left-handed, do the opposite. No matter which hand you use to handle the chainsaw, be sure to bend your knees and keep your feet approximately shoulder-width apart.

Pay Attention to the Blade

​The next general chainsaw safety rule is to keep both hands on the machine at all times and never take your eyes off the blade as you cut. You always want to plan your cut in a way where you know where the blade will be.

For example, you never want to sweep right through a log piercing the other side where your leg or foot may be. A chainsaw is a powerful machine for its size, so don’t be alarmed when you feel the power of the saw’s pull. Cutting with the bottom of the blade (or bar) pulls you toward the object you are cutting. Using the top of the bar pushes you away from it.

Be Aware of Kickback

​You need always to be aware of the kickback zone. This refers to the zone of space that a chainsaw can kick back and cause major injury. Your owner’s manual will give specific information on the kickback zone of your particular chainsaw. Never dig the blade into this zone. Unless you have formal training in chainsaw use, use a reduced-kickback chainsaw. These reduced-kickback chainsaws do cut slower, but they are much safer than commercial chainsaws that have a potential for a significant kickback.

Chainsaw Safety Precaution Tips

​Every chainsaw is different, so go through your owner’s manual thoroughly; read every word. It is important to understand your limits. If a task looks too daunting, call in a professional to do the job. Do not let your ego impede maintaining chainsaw safety. It can cost you a limb or even your life.

Always Start Small

​If you are a beginner, start with simple projects. Cutting logs for firewood is a great way to start using the chainsaw. Once you think you are ready to tackle trees, start with a small one. Get plenty of practice to get familiar with your chainsaw and always start small.

Bring a Buddy

​If you are a beginner, start with simple projects. Cutting logs for firewood is a great way to start using the chainsaw. Once you think you are ready to tackle trees, start with a small one. Get plenty of practice to get familiar with your chainsaw and always start small.

Bring a Buddy

​When you are using your chainsaw, always have someone else nearby, but not too close, in case something goes wrong. Never cut alone and never cut wood that is being held by somebody else. Always have a first aid kit nearby in the event that you need to use it.

Use Both Hands

​When starting your chainsaw, always ensure the chain brake is engaged. Never use one hand to hold a running chainsaw. Always use both hands to handle the machine. If you need to use your other hand for something else, turn the chainsaw off first.

Don’t Climb with Your Chainsaw

​Never climb trees while operating a chainsaw. This may look cool, but this should be reserved for the professionals. If you need to cut branches that are too high for you to reach, look into purchasing a pole saw.

Don’t Rush

​Try not to rush. If you are unsure of your next move, take a break. Cutting in a hurry can lead to disastrous results. Once again, if you think you are in over your head, call in a professional to finish the job. There are also classes available all over the country for beginners.

Tree Cutting 101

​Before you start felling or cutting down a tree, always check the tree and the surrounding environment for hazards such as dead or top branches, tree defects, and even wind direction and speed. Always pre-plan an escape route for when the tree falls. Using a wedge can help the tree fall in the direction away from you. When the tree begins falling, shut the chainsaw off and quickly follow your escape route.

Limbing or Branch Cutting 101

Always have the proper balance before you start. Never cut with the tip of the chainsaw. Always stand on the ground and not on the tree. If you are on a slope, stand on the uphill side. Never lean over your saw as this can leave you in a vulnerable position if the chainsaw were to kickback. Make shallow cuts on the branches first to release the majority of the tension. Use two cuts when using your chainsaw on large limbs.

​Final Thoughts

Cutting Wood

​Image source: pixabay

​​​​​​​​​​​​Proper chainsaw safety techniques and precautions are vital to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you when the chainsaw is in use. Chainsaws are a great tool for everyone, but they are dangerous, and this danger should be respected. Always use the proper safety gear and practice the necessary patience to complete the job in a steady, safe manner.  It could save an entire world of hurt and even save a life. If you don’t feel confident using a chainsaw, consider taking a class where you can learn to use this machine in a supervised and controlled environment.