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    Chainsaw Preparation & Safety

    A chain saw is an efficient tool that must be operated properly to reduce the likelihood of injury.

    If incidents or accidents can be thought of as unplanned events, a way to prevent or lessen their occurrences or impact is by implementing a good plan.

    The chain saw safety planning process starts well before branches are trimmed, firewood is cut, or trees are felled. A good safety plan starts "before the chips fly."

    Equipment Plan

    Choosing the right chain saw for your application can help reduce fatigue and the associated risk of injury that comes with it.

    Think about how often you will use the chain saw, and what you will use it for. Put more emphasis on what you need than what you want. Look for high power in relation to low weight, or a good power-to-weight ratio. Generally, consider a smaller bar and chain length, which will promote lighter weight, lower cost, and less time to sharpen.

    Many manufacturers have excellent online buying guides that make it easy to find the right model and chain saw design. Technology has created improvements that increase safety and efficiency no matter what the application.

    General categories for chain saw design and function include:

    Homeowner: Ideal for smaller jobs, pruning, and work around the yard. They are easy to start, lightweight, and simple to use.

    Landowner: All-purpose chainsaws incorporate low weight and high power combined with a rugged engine for demanding consumers. This class is suitable for a wide variety of applications, including farm use, firewood cutting, and tree felling.

    Professional: The professional tier demands three things: productivity, productivity, and everything else. Professional saws are fully loaded with features designed to make them powerful, durable, easy-to-maneuver, and — you guessed it — productive.

    Professional Tree Care: Arborists need power in a light, slim, and easy-to-maneuver chain saw. These saws are designed for use between tight branches and other hard-to-reach places with specific features for professional work aloft.

    Specialty: Pole saws designed for extended reach. Electric/battery saws are quiet, emission free, and ideal for lighter cutting, trimming, carpentry, and work indoors.

    PPE Plan

    Always use approved Personal Protective Equipment. Protective apparel that complies with applicable standards and best practices is available for your head, ears, eyes, face, hands, and feet. PPE cannot eliminate the risk of injury, but it can reduce the likelihood or severity of injury. Leg protection comes in various types of pants and chaps, which contain material designed to reduce the risk or severity of a leg injury.

    They also give the operator extra reaction time when contact is made by a moving chain. They should be worn snug and overlap the top of your boot by two inches. Look for the UL Classification label which meets or exceeds OSHA Regulation 1910.266 and the ANSI Z133 Safety Requirements for Arboricultural Operations. (Note: These are U.S. standards. Please check to ensure your leg protection is in compliance with your local/regional requirements.) You should also refer to wash and care instructions attached to the garment, which will help keep the protective material at its best after exposure to gas, oil, and dirt.

    Head protection (helmets) should conform to federal or regional standards. More injuries occur to an operator by being struck by limbs, branches, or the tree itself than being cut by the chain saw. You should be able to look directly overhead and also bend over to touch your toes without the helmet moving on your head.

    Eye and face protection should be panoramic with minimal field-of-view distortion and include UV protection. There are inexpensive anti-fog products available should fog become an issue during the hot summer months. Hearing protection should comply with specifications that reduce harmful decibel levels, while maintaining good hearing communication capability.

    Footwear and gloves should be appropriate to the known job hazards. Chain saw gloves provide protection not only against cuts and scrapes, but also oil and fuel.

    Maintenance Plan

    The life span of a chain saw can be reduced and the risk of accidents can increase if timely maintenance is not performed properly, and if service and repairs are not carried out professionally. Read the owner's manual and always follow a manufacturer's operating and safety instructions. Most operator manuals include information on general safety precautions, fitting the bar and chain, maintenance, fuel handling, starting and stopping, work techniques, and technical data. Preventative maintenance will help lessen fatigue, ensure that features designed to minimize exposure to potential hazards continue to work properly, and increase your safety.

    External:

    Look for cracks, leaks, loose hardware, and modifications to the saw. Check the chain tension such that it does not sag from the underside of the bar, but that it can still be rotated by a gloved hand. Make sure the muffler is securely attached, and check for a broken or worn starter cord.

    Fluids:

    Fill the gas tank with fresh, correctly mixed fuel, and fill the oil reservoir with chain oil. Fuel with an ethanol rating higher than E-10 should not be used. I recommend vegetable-based chain oil, which minimizes the impact to the environment and still has good adhesion characteristics.

    Air:

    Check and clean the air filter regularly by blowing lightly inside to outside, or by brushing or tapping lightly. The best way is by soaking it in a mixture of water and mild detergent, rinsing, and letting it dry for 24 hours. Having an extra new filter on hand is always a good rule. Something as common as a dirty air filter can decrease engine power, engine life, and increase fatigue, which impacts your safety.

    Cooling System:

    Blow or brush the flywheel fins, cylinder head fins, and air intake on the starter cover.

    Safety Features:

    Check to see that the chain brake, throttle lock control, and stop switch are all working and free of damage. Make sure the chain catcher is in place and the anti-vibration system is working properly. Safety features reduce the risk of accidents, but only you can prevent them.

    Chain, Bar, Sprockets:

    Make sure the chain's cutting teeth are properly sharpened and the depth gauge setting is correct. Inspect for visible cracks and wear in rivets and links. Remove the bar and check for a flat top rail. File burred side-rail edges of the bar, which if left alone can create drag while cutting. Clean out the bar groove and the chain oil hole that allows movement of oil from the saw to the bar groove. Flip the bar regularly for equal wear. Check that the bar tip sprocket turns freely and that the teeth are rounded and not pointed. Check the wear on the chain drive sprocket and replace it whenever you replace the chain. OK, our saw is maintained for peak performance and safety.

    Emergency Plan

    The common thread in pre-operation planning for chain saw safety is that it is preventative in focus. Emergency preparation is no different. You need to be able to answer the question, "What needs to be done if an emergency occurs?" and develop a plan for specific situations. This will help you identify potential hazards beforehand and create an organized response if an emergency does occur. First-aid training, a first-aid kit on site, cell phone or mobile communication programmed to the nearest emergency care facility, directions and distance to that facility, and communication with someone who knows where you are going to be and what you are doing are basic components to a good emergency plan. Whether you're in the back yard or on the back 40, never work alone.

    Application Plan

    We're ready to go to work, which is another story in itself — another story about planning for safety. To get to that point, the chain brake must be engaged when starting a chain saw, and the operator must maintain secure footing, holding the saw firmly in place on the ground or supporting the saw in a manner that minimizes movement when pulling the starter rope. A chain saw should be operated with the left hand and thumb gripped firmly around the forward handle and the right hand and thumb gripped firmly around the rear handle. It is not possible to cover every conceivable situation you can face when using a chain saw. Always exercise care and use your common sense to avoid all the situations you feel are beyond your abilities. Don't hesitate to consult an expert, your dealer, industry organizations, or the manufacturer for advice.

    Whether you're working with a chain saw aloft, cutting firewood, cleaning up storm damage, or felling trees, working safely requires a plan. Your plan should be specific to your task or operation and involve hazard assessment, work procedures, and job assignments. After reviewing your plan, you must be able to say that you are competent, confident, and assured in successfully implementing it. Make your decision to proceed, or not, "before the chips fly." Be safe out there!