Two years ago, while cutting down a small Virginia pine no larger than 4” in diameter, I was almost badly hurt as the tree I cut down pulled down another pine with it that fell on me. The tree that struck me over the head was also only 4” DBH; however, it almost knocked me out. I saw stars, fell to the side, and luckily pushed the chainsaw out of my way as I fell.
After I regained my bearings I realized how bad the situation could have been. While the tree that hit me was small, it had dead branches broken off all along the stem that looked like small daggers. One of these hit me on my back and glanced off leaving a cut and a hefty bruise on the back of my ribs. If one of these dagger limbs had struck me square in the back I believe it would have broken right through my skin and ribs, causing internal damage.
Prior to this event, I had always felt that a chainsaw accident would not happen to me. As soon as this happen, I bought all necessary safety equipment for using my chainsaw. Everyone is susceptible to accidents no matter how careful they believe they are, so safety equipment is essential!
The Dangers Of Chainsaws
Chainsaws are probably the most versatile tool that any hunter and land manager can own. However, they are extremely dangerous. I like to think of a chainsaw as 10 pounds of pure muscle with over 70% of its surface area being a rotating razor-sharp blade. There are several pieces of equipment that you should own and wear to protect yourself while operating chainsaws, and they are commonly referred to as chainsaw PPE’s or Personal Protective Equipment.
The first essential piece of safety equipment is a good pair of chainsaw chaps. These chaps fit over your pants and have a tough denim outside and a Kevlar inside lining. They are designed to protect you by slow the rotating chain with the outside lining while the Kevlar deflects the chain teeth. A good pair of chaps will last a long time and are very affordable.
Helmet, Earmuffs, Face Shield
A good forestry hard hat is essential when running a saw, as my earlier story outlined. What’s better is a chainsaw hard hat that includes a mesh face shield to protect your face from flying debris and integrated earmuffs to protect your ears. This design is very easy to use and guarantees that you won’t forget your earmuffs, while providing added protection for your eyes and face.
You can also use any protective hard hat and use separate earbuds, earphones, or earplugs to protect your ears. With a regular hard hat, you must also wear safety glasses with hard lenses to protect your eyes from debris.
Another essential piece of protective equipment that is sometimes overlooked is a good pair of leather gloves. Gloves protect your hands from flying debris or a chain that has flown off the bar. They also soak up vibration allowing you to run your saw longer without hand fatigue and protect your hands while handling the bar and chain.
You Have To Wear Them!
It doesn’t matter how much safety equipment you own, it won’t protect you if you don’t wear it! Chainsaws are dangerous tools that are very useful for habitat improvement when used correctly and safely. So, make sure that you are protected next time you fire up your chainsaw!