Safety watch: Reducing the chance of chain saw kickback

Updated Mar 6, 2019

Chainsaw SafetyKeep a firm grasp on this hand-held machine.

The accident: A landscaper is using a chain saw to trim limbs from the top of a felled elm tree, in preparation for them to be hauled away. As he is cutting through a limb that has some spring because it is underneath the top of the elm, the chain saw kicks back. The hand tool hits him in the face, cutting the tip of his nose and both lips. It also pulls out one tooth and shatters another. He is hospitalized for his cuts and lacerations.

The bottom line: Chain saws can be one of the most effective, and dangerous, portable power tools on the jobsite. The worker should have been prepared for a kickback and used a saw that reduced kickback danger (chain brakes, low kickback chains, guide bars, etc.). Here are other safety techniques when using chain saws:

Before sawing

  • Check controls, chain tension, bolts and handles to make sure they are working properly.
  • Put on personal protective equipment (PPE) for your head, ears, eyes, face, hands and legs.
  • Complete any required employee training, including how to safely perform the assigned task.

During operation

  • Keep both hands on the handles, and maintain secure footing while operating the chain saw.
  • Do not cut directly overhead.
  • Clear the area of obstacles that might interfere with cutting the tree.
  • Shut off or engage the chain brake whenever the saw is carried more than 50 feet or across a hazardous terrain.
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