Chainsaw Safety
Before Event During Event After Event Resources

After the Event

Following a severe storm or hurricane, homeowners will be anxious to get outdoors and begin cleaning up fallen trees and broken tree limbs, work that in many cases will require the use of a chainsaw. Whether you have a little experience or lots of experience using a chainsaw, it's always beneficial to keep a few safety practices in mind. Remember, a chainsaw operating at full throttle moves at 50 miles per hour!

Chain saws can be hazardous, especially if they "kick back." To help reduce this hazard, make sure your chain saw is equipped with the low kickback chain. Look for other safety features on chain saws, including hand guard, safety tip, chain brake, vibration reduction system, spark arrestor on gasoline models, trigger or throttle lockout, chain catcher, and bumper spikes.

Do
  • Read the owner's manual carefully before operating a chainsaw.
  • Keep the cutting area clear of spectators and pets.
  • Work with a partner if possible.
  • Bystanders or coworkers should remain at least two tree lengths away from anyone cutting trees and at least 30 feet from anyone operating a chain saw to remove limbs or cut a fallen tree.
  • Wear protective clothing: a hard hat, goggles, sturdy shoes, gloves and trim-fitting clothes.
  • Note any overhead hazards, including hanging tree limbs and utility lines.
  • Be careful with fuel. Fuel the saw at least 10 feet from sources of inginition.
  • Stay on the ground, don't cut from a ladder.
  • Stand to the side when cutting.
  • Always cut at waist level or below to ensure that you maintain secure control over the chain saw.
  • Cut at full throttle; bring the saw up to speed before starting cuts.
  • Keep both hands on the saw handles.
  • Let the saw come to a complete stop before reaching for the chain or blade.
  • Cut wood only. Don't allow dirt and rocks to touch the chain.
  • Be careful with small branches — unweighted limbs may spring back when cut.
  • Adjust the depth gauge setting every time you sharpen the chain.
  • Operate, adjust and maintain the saw according to manufacturer's instructions provided in the manual. Maintain proper chain saw tension. A loose chain can come off the guide bar and strike you.
  • Shut off or engage the chain brake whenever the saw is carried more than 50 feet, or across hazardous terrain.
  • If injury occurs, apply direct pressure over site(s) of heavy bleeding and call for help. This act may save a life. 
Don't
  • Touch a hot muffler.
  • Cut above chest height.
  • Use the bar for leverage; it's there to guide and support the cutting chain.
  • Bury the tip in the wood.
  • Push or force the saw. Let the saw do the work. If you find that you have to push, stop and sharpen the chain.
  • Refuel a hot saw.
  • Drop-start the saw.
  • Operate a saw when using alcohol, drugs or when you're fatigued.

Beware of Injury from the Release of Bent Trees or Branches

Take extra care in cutting "spring poles" trees or branches that have gotten bent, twisted, hung up on, or caught under another object during a high wind. If the tree or the branch is suddenly released, it may strike the person cutting it, or a bystander, with enough force to cause serious injury or death. Even a seemingly small tree or branch (2 inches in diameter, for example) may pose a hazard when it is released from tension.

To avoid injury:

  • Identify the maximum point of tension on the spring pole
  • Slowly (shave) the underside of the tree - rather than cut through - to allow the tree or branch to release tension slowly

Updated October 2013