Safety: How to make the cut

Written by De’Anne Stegert

We all know it’s better to be safe than sorry, right?

The chainsaw is an indispensable, labour-saving power tool used widely by farmers, viticulturists, orchardists, foresters, timber cutters and councils.

But while it makes light work of felling and cutting up trees, a chainsaw has the potential to inflict very serious injuries or create hazardous situations.

When looking for employment opportunities in the fields listed you will be required to have had current chainsaw training.

Chainsaws should only be used by trained operators. Crosscut and felling training should be undertaken by competent operators.

Purchase chainsaws that are designed and manufactured for safe operation and are properly guarded. All modern chainsaws have certain safety devices designed to help you safely use and keep control of the saw.

Select a task-appropriate chainsaw that is light and well-balanced, with a low noise rating, and equipped with:

  • a chain brake (preferably automatic) and low-kick chain (safety chain) to prevent injury in the event of kickback
  • a chain catcher and rear hand protector to protect the saw and the operator in the event of chain breakage
  • an interlock throttle system to prevent uncontrolled activation of the throttle
  • an anti-vibration system to reduce exposure to vibration
  • an on-off switch.

Ensure operators are well trained, instructed and supervised. Send workers to a chainsaw operator training course if necessary.

Provide chainsaw operators and anyone helping them with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), which must be always worn while a saw is being operated.

PPE should include:

  • eye and face protection (goggles, safety glasses, mesh, and Perspex face shields); the chain on the saw rotates at more than 40 km/h, so chips and material can be flung at an operator’s eyes at a very high speed
  • head protection (hard hat), to protect from falling material and kickback
  • hearing protection: chainsaws operate in the region of 100-110dB(A) at the operator’s ear, therefore careful consideration must be given to the attenuation of the ear protector for the operator and anyone else working in the vicinity
  • foot protection (e.g., safety boots with steel toe caps, non-slip/deep tread soles or metal sprigs/cleats)
  • leg protection (e.g., cut-resistant safety chaps)
  • hand protection (e.g., gloves or mittens to protect against cuts and abrasions when handling offcuts, keep hands warm and help prevent vibration induced problems).

Do not tackle jobs beyond your capabilities. Use professionals for felling trees that overhang powerlines or buildings, large shelterbelt trees, trees with a heavy lean or on steep slopes/unstable ground.

Never work alone. Chainsaws can expose workers to hazards that could result in a serious injury requiring first aid. Always have a trained first aider within calling distance.

Forest harvesting Code of Practice 2007 states certain persons such as fellers using hand-held chainsaw require nationally recognised certificates of competency unless they are undergoing training.