The chainsaw is one of the most powerful and dangerous tools. Knowing how to properly operate one is of the utmost importance, and just as essential is wearing protective gear. There are specific rules and regulations on what protective clothing is legally required based on local jurisdictions, but regardless of the law certain safety equipment should always be used.
When working with a chainsaw, you should wear a helmet, visor and/or goggles, ear defenders, protective trousers and jacket, chainsaw chaps, safety mitt, gloves, and last but not least, steel-toe boots. All of these are considered personal protection equipment (PPE) which protect you from injury and could even save your life.
Protect yourself from top to bottom by using these PPE items.
The helmet is meant to provide protection from head injuries caused by falls and a chainsaw kickback that can occur and from flying objects that can be projected such as twigs and branches from the tree being cut.
Anyone operating a chainsaw or working near a tree-cutting or trimming work-site should wear an approved helmet, preferably a hard hat that is highly visible in color and has a chin strap to prevent it from falling off. Helmets should be worn at all times, whether working on the ground or in the air.
If you’re using a helmet with eye protection guard, it should be replaced every 3-5 years due to sun exposure which can weaken the plastic visor. The helmet should be replaced as well if it begins to make a cracking noise when pressure is applied to the sides.
Visor and Goggles
The eyes and face should be protected from falling and flying debris such as wood chips. If you’re not wearing a helmet with a visor, then goggles and/or a visor should be worn. Whether or not you wear both depends on the environment.
The visor provides better ventilation for hard work in hot weather. Often, both safety goggles and visor are employed for superior protection. The relatively flimsy mesh visor, with its imperfect coverage of the face, is considered acceptable because the chips produced by well-maintained chainsaws are of relatively uniform size and speed. Unlike other woodworking tools, a chainsaw with a sharp chain produces little or no sawdust, only chips (that are too large to fit through the visor’s mesh).
ANSI Standard Z87.1 sets the standard for protective apparel for the eyes and face, as decided by the International Safety Equipment Association. Gear that complies with that standard must go through testing procedures and will be marked accordingly.
Earmuffs should be worn to prevent hearing loss. Earmuffs are rated by a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR). OSHA states that sufficient hearing protection must reduce noise exposure to 90 decibels or less. According to experts, the recommended level under the ear cup should be below 85 dBA.
Questions you should ask when selecting ear muffs include:
- When should you consider selecting an earmuff with a lower protection level?
- Is the exposure time shorter than four hours?
- Do you need to hear notifications from co-workers or warning signals?
Say, for example, you use a chainsaw with a dB level of 110 dBA. The recommended level under the ear cup should be below 85 dBA. Therefore, you need an earmuff with an attenuation of at least 25 dB (110–85 =25).
Protective Trousers & Chaps
Chainsaw chaps should be worn over protective pants to protect from deep cuts to the legs. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were more than 24,000 chainsaw injuries in 2014. More than 36 percent of these were injuries to the legs and knees, which could have been prevented by chaps.
There is a conflict between making a fabric impact-proof which would provide protection against more violent impacts, and making the fabric light, flexible, and comfortable enough for the user. Clothing that makes the user too hot or prevents the user from moving easily is a safety problem. Extra fabric layers are added to clothing to improve cut resistance, but clothes which cannot be cut at all by a powerful saw are impractical, even with modern fibers.
You must choose the trousers to match the saw. There are two main types of trousers: Type A & Type C.
- Type A protects only the front of the legs and can be supplied as chaps, worn over conventional work clothes, or as conventional trousers.
- Type C provides protection all around the legs and are almost always worn as ordinary trousers, not over another garment.
Chainsaw protective fabric works on a number of levels. The outermost layer can be made both tough and slippery, to protect against minor damage which could compromise the filler material. Beneath this, long, loose fibers of polyester, Avertic ballistic nylon, or Kevlar are layered.
When a saw contacts the trousers, the outer layer is immediately cut through, but the inner layer is drawn out and wraps around the saw’s drive sprocket, locking it solid and halting the chain. This limits damage to the operator’s leg.
Just like the trousers, the jacket must also contain protective materials designed to slow the chain’s rate of cutting and clog the mechanism, rather than protect the wearer completely. This protects against cuts to the torso and arms.
Safety Mitt & Gloves
Safety mitts and gloves prevent cuts to hands and fingers. The gloves available are more “cut resistant,” as they can’t actually prevent a chainsaw from cutting through the fabric. They should prevent slipping and provide a grip on the saw and absorption of vibration.
Chainsaw gloves have cut-proof fabric protection like that of protective trousers with ballistic nylon reinforcement on the back, but only on the back of the left hand; after all, most chainsaw injuries to the hands occur on the back of the left hand. It is especially important that work gloves are flexible, which limits how much padding they can have.
Chainsaw users must wear steel-toe boots that also have layers of chainsaw protective fabric on the exposed front surfaces. Boots should protect the operator from both front and sideways cuts. Boots should also prevent injuries to feet caused by falling heavy debris.
These boots must also be distinctively marked as suitable for chainsaw use, made of ballistic nylon and cut-resistant materials to offer the best cut protection. Also recommended are rubber soles for wet weather and snow, and hobnail boots with grip or cork soles for working in rough terrain.
Other Essential PPE
Chainsaw users should also consider having on site a whistle and cell phone to call for help and a first aid kit containing large wound dressing.
Chainsaw injuries can be life-threatening. Approximately 40% of all chainsaw accidents occur to the legs and well over 35% occur to the left hand and wrist. Non-professional chainsaw users are at even greater risk of serious injury than professionals who work on construction sites, surrounded by other professional workers who can respond quickly to emergencies.
It is essential to properly use safety gear at all times when using a chainsaw. Personal Protective Equipment save lives. At Timberland Supply, you can find all the safety gear you need to stay safe. Click here to contact us today!