Chainsaws should be the poster child of the double-edged sword saying. And it isn’t a far-fetched opinion if you consider how fast a chainsaw can turn from productive to destructive. Good thing it’s all about how you use a chainsaw — your chainsaw will never hurt you or the next person unless you mishandle it.
You need chainsaw training to use a chainsaw safely and effectively and avoid slight errors that can turn a worksite into a bloody or fatal scene. Not to scare you, but if you’re felling or bucking a tree and your chainsaw jolted and struck your upper arm, you would bleed profusely if you don’t urgently seek first-aid.
While using a chainsaw may look like child’s play, you would be surprised how often chainsaw accidents happen, even to the most experienced primary chainsaw operators. You must know how to use a chainsaw safely to enjoy the convenience chainsaws bring to otherwise laborious tasks.
Why Chainsaw Training Could Be Right for You
The adage “prevention is better than the cure” could succinctly summarize the need for a chainsaw training course. It’s less risky, costly, and time-consuming to prevent chainsaw accidents than it is to deal with the painful and sometimes catastrophic repercussions of one. Proper chainsaw safety training substantially reduces your chances of getting involved in a chainsaw accident.
Here are three top reasons why chainsaw training is the way to go.
Chainsaws Are Powerful Tools That Aren’t Always Easy To Control
Chainsaws come in different models with varying horsepower (hp) depending on their intended use cases. You can buy gas-powered, battery-operated, or electric chainsaws for domestic use. Generally, gasoline-powered chainsaws are the most powerful, heaviest, and most complicated to operate.
For instance, the Husqvarna 20 Inch 455 Rancher Gas Chainsaw weighs 12.8 lbs and has a 55.5cc engine with 3.5 hp. With such power, you can make light work of landscaping and ranching tasks, such as trimming tough trees.
Handling such a powerful tool can quickly get out of hand if you don’t have enough training or experience. You can imagine the damage a 12.8 lbs chainsaw revolving at 9,000 revolutions per minute (RPM) can do to your limbs in case of a kickback.
- 455 Rancher chainsaw is an ideal saw for landowners or homeowners who require a high powered and heavy duty chainsaw
- 55. 5cc 20 inch gas chainsaw with guide bar and chain
- 2 cycle engine with Intertie activated chain brake for safety while operating
- Comes with Husqvarna chainsaw Bar cover and 2. 6 ounce bottle of pre-mix fuel Included, Bar and chain oil must be purchased Separately
- Automatic chain oiler delivers a steady supply of bar and chain oil for safe and effective use
High Number of Chainsaw Accidents Each Year
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says about 36,000 people are treated annually in hospital emergency departments for chainsaw-related injuries. Probably a more distressing fact is that chainsaw wounds need roughly 110 stitches to suture.
Most chainsaw operators sustain injuries to the lower legs, hands, and lower arms. Overall, the common causes of chainsaw accidents include:
- A momentary lapse in concentration from an operator because of fatigue or other mental conditions
- Operator’s inexperience
- Poor operating conditions, such as strong winds or slippery ground
- Lack of proper chainsaw safety training
Effective chainsaw training helps you avoid accidents and injuries as you go about your chainsaw work. It saves you a lot of physical and financial pain that comes with treating chainsaw injuries. Research indicates that treating chainsaw-related injuries costs close to $350 million annually.
Work With a Chainsaw Can Escalate To a Dangerous Situation Quickly
With the power and weight of a chainsaw, and a chainsaw blade running at a speed of over 9,000 RPM, you have a dangerous tool in your hands if you fumble it. You essentially have a motorcycle engine with an attached cutting blade. In a worst-case scenario, a chainsaw can eat through your limbs in seconds if you mishandle it while operating at maximum speed.
Besides endangering your life, you pose a risk to other people and property at your worksite if you mishandle a chainsaw. For instance, if you’re bucking a tree without sufficient elevation from the ground, your chainsaw may hit a rock and kick back violently if you don’t have a firm grip on it. If a friend or relative is working with you nearby, the chainsaw or the dispersed rock may strike and injure them.
Common Types of Chainsaw Training Options Available
We’ve made a big deal about chainsaw training, and that’s because it’s often the difference between safe chainsaw operations and catastrophic chainsaw accidents. Now, let’s discuss the different avenues you can use to learn how to use a chainsaw. Fortunately, you have a pool of options to choose from depending on what’s convenient for you.
Top Courses and Classes
You have the choice of in-person or online courses. For online chainsaw training courses, selecting those certified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is advisable. Some of the online OSHA-compliant courses include:
- Safe Training North America
- Udemy’s Chainsaw Recovery, Maintenance and Safety course
- Chainsaw Safety and Maintenance Training
- Leavitt Machinery Online Chainsaw Training
While these online chainsaw training courses are content-packed and informative, they may not give you a first-hand experience like in-person courses. Given that operating a chainsaw is more hands-on and practical, you may opt for courses with on-site training such as:
- Chain Saw and Crosscut Saw Training Course offered by the United States Department of Agriculture
- Basic Chainsaw Safety Course offered by Rutgers University
In-person courses offer a more immersive training experience that makes you a better chainsaw operator in the long run. For instance, watching an instructor demonstrate how to keep a chainsaw steady while operating is more illuminating than watching a recorded online video would be.
Safety Workshops With Experts
Primary chainsaw operators and other professionals, such as arborists who use a chainsaw as their primary tool of work, organize safety training workshops open to the public.
Some of the chainsaw safety workshops you can attend include:
- The Chainsaw Safety Awareness that Works (CSAW) program offered by the Ohio Forestry Association
- National Crosscut and Chainsaw Program offered by the Forest Service U.S. Department of Agriculture
Sometimes, local chainsaw dealers may organize beginner or refresher workshops for their existing or prospective customers to help them operate chainsaws safely. You can always check if your local chainsaw dealers hold safety workshops or if they can recommend a convenient workshop.
Videos for Self-Teaching
In the age of DIY, there’re plenty of free learning resources for virtually all topics, and chainsaw training is no exception. A quick YouTube search for chainsaw training videos will reveal scores of video tutorials you can watch and learn from. For instance, this chainsaw safety awareness video made by the U.S. Agricultural Safety and Health Centers is a good reference point for beginner operators.
With DIY and tutorial videos, you should be extra careful not to rush through them and miss important aspects. Also, because most people making chainsaw training videos are seasoned experts, they may overlook some crucial directions (like direction control) or make them look too obvious.
After watching DIY chainsaw training videos, it’s advisable to try out your chainsaw under the guidance of a more experienced operator. This way, you’ll avoid making rookie mistakes like not properly tensioning a loose chain, or operating your chainsaw while wearing bulky gloves that hinder your grip.
One-Day or Short-Term Courses for Disaster Relief
Natural disasters such as hurricanes and storms cause trees to snap, twist, break, or crack. During such times, chainsaw works such as grubbing, felling, and bucking are in high gear as part of the disaster mitigation efforts. This calls for volunteer chainsaw operators to expedite relief.
In preparation, charity organizations, churches, and local governments offer short-term chainsaw training courses to volunteers. One such program is the chainsaw and skidsteer training program sponsored by Rio Texas United Methodist Disaster Response Team.
Such disaster response programs are an excellent opportunity to learn how to use a chainsaw and benefit your community while at it. And because you learn from emergency response specialists, you acquire more emergency preparedness skills beyond operating chainsaws.
High Quality Training Courses To Consider
If you’re looking to become a certified chainsaw operator, consider these three professional courses:
Safety and Woods Worker (SAWW) Training Courses
SAWW training program is ideal if you desire extensive sawing training, particularly in felling difficult trees. It’s designed for professional and recreational sawyers, making it the perfect choice if you want to learn advanced tree-felling techniques.
SAWW program has four levels of training and two additional levels for storm damage and utilization training. Level one covers OSHA regulations, basic chainsaw training, and personal protective equipment. Levels two to four teach tree-felling best practices and techniques, such as precision felling assessment, planning escape routes, and felling difficult trees.
SAWW program offers you a hands-on experience under the tutorage of SAWW certified trainers. On top of that, you undergo storm damage training and learn special techniques for cutting under adverse weather conditions. The last phase of the SAWW program is utilization training, where you learn advanced lumberjack techniques, such as sawing on a portable mill and grading and sizing logs.
U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Training Program
OSHA’s mission is “to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for workers by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.”
For chainsaw safety training, OSHA offers a Logging and Chainsaw Safety Certificate Course that covers standard safety precautions when working with a chainsaw to avoid or reduce on-the-job injuries.
This online course will cost you $24.95, and you can complete it within 180 days. These are the core topics you’ll learn from this course:
- Potential chainsaw injuries and other logging hazards on a job site
- How to choose the correct personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Planning and making safe cuts
- Precautions related to equipment, trees, and job sites
You download your certificate of completion after finishing the course and acing a short test assessing the main topics taught. You can enroll in this course online and become an OSHA-certified chainsaw operator.
- Includes: mesh visor with hearing protectors
- Husqvarna homeowner classic chaps with Husqvarna blue clip suspenders
- Large extreme duty work gloves
- Clear x protective glasses with protective glasses Lanyard
Forest Industry Safety & Training Alliance (FISTA) Chainsaw Training
FISTA offers four levels of Chainsaw Safety Training, enough to elevate you from a beginner to a proficient chainsaw operator. To facilitate quality training, FISTA leverages tools with cutting-edge technology and customizes training to fit your experience level.
Upon enrolling in this course, you go through four levels of training: beginner level, two intermediate levels, and a final advanced level. The beginner level teaches basic chainsaw training like a chainsaw’s main features, safe-use best practices, personal protective equipment (PPE), and daily maintenance.
In the intermediate levels, you get more advanced knowledge, including direction control and body positioning, tree felling assessment, and expert application of the bore cut and wedges. At the advanced level, you learn precision felling, dealing with hazardous aspects such as cutting storm-damaged or hung trees, pressure-cut methods, and tree-bucking techniques.
Chainsaw Safety Tips For Any Operation
Whether you’re using a lightweight electric chainsaw to prune medium-sized trees and hedges in your backyard or a gasoline-powered chainsaw to fell large trees, safety must come first.
When you’re outside working with your chainsaw, anything can happen. A decayed tree branch may detach from a tree and hit your head, sawdust may sprinkle into your eyes, or your chainsaw could kick back violently and hurt you. To stay clear of such painful events, practice these chainsaw tips and work safely with chainsaws:
Always Wear Protective Equipment
Before you start your chainsaw to get on with your work, put on the following personal protective equipment for your safety:
You must wear a hard hat for head protection whenever you’re working with your chainsaw. A chainsaw helmet can save your life, particularly if you’re working in a forest area felling tall trees. It’s not uncommon for dead limbs to fall off when you’re downing a tree. Head knocks from such limbs can be fatal if you don’t have sufficient head protection.
- 5 in 1 safety helmet comes with helmet, adjustable/removable earmuffs, plastic visor, and mesh visor, providing dynamic protection for any job
- Provides the protection you need when using chainsaws, brush cutters, and trimmers, ideal for forestry type work.Noise Reduction:SNR 26dB
- Secures firmly on head and convenient dial knob makes it easy to adjust the circumference 20 - 24.5 inches (52-62 centimeters)
- Lightweight, interchangeable mesh and plastic visors provide shielding from debris
- All parts are ANSI and CE approved - Helmet carries a Z89.1-2003 ANSI rating
Safety Glasses for Eye Protection
With a chainsaw working at a speed of over 9,000 RPM, sawdust particles and wood chips are dislodged at a super-fast rate. Without wearing safety glasses, these particles will strike your eyes and possibly blind you.
- DEWALT tough Coat hard coated lens provides tough protection against scratches
- DEWALT Xtra clear anti-fog lens coating provides tough protection against fogging
- Soft, dual injected rubber conforms to the face to provide a high level protection from dust and debris
- Adjustable, elastic cloth head strap provides a comfortable fit
- Ventilation channels allow breathability and added protection against fogging
Earmuffs for Ear Protection
The CDC says prolonged exposure to noise above 60 decibels (dB) can damage your hearing over time, and noise above 120 dB can trigger instant harm to your ears. The average chainsaw noise level ranges between 105 and 120 dB. This means if you’re not wearing ear protection when operating your chainsaw, you’ll likely suffer partial or permanent hearing loss over time.
- Recommended for TWA noise exposures up to 98 dBA
- Stainless steel headband distributes weight for low pressure fit
- Earcup pivot points tilt for comfort that adjusts to individual wearers
- Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) 25 decibels
- For industrial/occupational use only; Not for consumer sale or use
Take Safety Precautions Even When They Feel Inconvenient
Sometimes, adhering to these chainsaw safety precautions may feel secondary. For instance, when bucking a few logs for your wood stoves, it’s easy to overlook your leg chaps because you’ll only run your chainsaw for a few minutes. But knowing that chainsaw accidents happen within a blink of an eye, you shouldn’t overlook any safety precautions or essential elements for operation, even when handling light chainsaw work.
Ensure You Have a Working Chain-Brake System
The chain-brake system is the best defense against kickback. Chainsaw kickback happens when a chainsaw jerks violently when its nose hits an object while you’re sawing. If your chainsaw doesn’t have a working chain-brake system, the running chain can hurt your face or shoulder when it kicks back.
Conversely, when your chain-brake system works perfectly, it’ll activate and arrest the chain, stopping it from striking you in a kickback situation. Before you start your chainsaw, test the chain-brake system by moving it on and off to ensure it’s working. If you’re using an old chainsaw, it may not have a chain-brake system, and your only solution is to acquire a newer one with a chain-brake system.
Consider an Anti-Vibration System for Fatigue
As soon as you start your chainsaw, you can feel the intensity of the vibration it produces. The vibration is even more intense when operating massive gas-powered chainsaws. Long-term exposure to intense chainsaw vibrations causes hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAV), a painful condition that causes tingling, numbness, and sensitivity loss to your fingers, hands, and arms.
To mitigate HAV conditions and reduce overall hand fatigue, you should install anti-vibration mounts compatible with your chainsaw. Fortunately, anti-vibration mount buffers are affordable and easy to shop for online.
Today, most chainsaws come with a built-in anti-vibration system. If your chainsaw has pre-installed anti-vibration mounts, you wouldn’t need to buy a new one unless you’re replacing old or worn-out mounts. Even with a quality anti-vibration system, don’t forget to take breaks to flex your hand during and after sawing.
When You Do Get Tired, Don’t Be Afraid To Take a Break
After operating your chainsaw non-stop for an extended period, you’ll be fatigued. Holding a 10 to 15 lb vibrating chainsaw at waist level for more than an hour will stretch your biceps and stress your back. If you don’t take time to rest, you’re likely to momentarily lose concentration and cause a chainsaw accident.
Also, your steady grip on the chainsaw weakens as your hands become sweaty. When your body and mind are tired, and your hands are sweaty, continuing to operate a chainsaw is akin to holding a tiger by the tail. Many seasoned operators have sustained injuries because of fatigue and concentration lapses. Take frequent breaks to keep operating your chainsaw with a rejuvenated mind and body.
Keep Your Chainsaw Blades Sharp
A chainsaw with a sharp chain can easily cut through all wood materials, including hard maple, almond, oak, and ash. But with time, the blades become dull the more you put them to work. You’ll know when your chainsaw blades are dull because it’ll take much more effort to cut through wood than you usually need. Also, you’ll notice that your chainsaw produces fine sawdust when sawing instead of coarse sawdust particles.
Fortunately, you can sharpen your chainsaw blades using a special file. Ideally, it’s best to sharpen your blades after ten uses to keep your chainsaw in optimal working condition. Sharpening dull blades make sawing more efficient and enjoyable and reduces the risks of chainsaw injuries. Read this comprehensive guide to learn how you can expertly sharpen your chainsaw blades when they become dull.
- This portable universal chainsaw sharpening kit by Oregon makes it easy to keep your chainsaws, pole saws, and other tools sharp and ready to go
- This versatile kit includes 1 x 5/32 Inch round saw chain file, 1 x 3/16 Inch round saw chain file, 1 x 7/32 Inch round saw chain file, 1 x 6 Inch flat file, 1 x file guide, 1 x universal file handle, and travel pouch
- With the handy file guide, you can ensure easy depth gauge setting and accurate, consistent results when sharpening your chains
- This field kit comes with a detailed instruction sheet, including a filing chart to help you align the right filing tool and technique to your chain
- This chainsaw blade sharpening kit comes in a compact rolled canvas pouch with inner pockets for each tool and a secure loop closure, perfect for taking from job to job
Make Sure Your Bar and Chain Oil Reservoir Stay Filled Up
If your chainsaw engine or the guide bar lacks oil, your chainsaw will produce excess heat and smoke. Operating a smoking chainsaw is uncomfortable and unhealthy for your body and immediate environment. Any time you notice your chainsaw overheating or producing excess smoke, check the oil levels on the chain guide bar and engine.
While at it, remember that excess oil will also cause problems, primarily when operating a gas-powered chainsaw. To avoid having excess oil in your chainsaw gas, follow the recommended gas-to-oil ratio in your owner’s manual.
Invest in a Reliable Chainsaw
Before you visit your nearest chainsaw dealer and come out as a proud chainsaw owner, do your research to buy the appropriate chainsaw for your needs. If you’re looking for the best chainsaw for light home duties like bucking small-sized pieces of firewood, you would want to avoid large gas-powered chainsaws with a lot of horsepower.
A reliable chainsaw should serve you for more than a decade if you maintain it properly. And it all starts with buying the right chainsaw. With many chainsaw brands competing for your attention, it’s essential to have as much information as possible before making a purchase.
Fortunately, you can count on ChainSawSelector for all your chainsaw literature and expert recommendations, and buying guides for the best chainsaws for home use.
- 40V 16” CHAINSAW – Perfect for homeowners that need to tackle yard projects, or storm clean-up
- TRUBRUSHLESSTM MOTOR TECHNOLOGY – 2 x more torque. Provides more power, longer runtimes, quiet operation, and extended motor life
- CHAIN BRAKE – for added safety and reduced risk of injury
- AUTOMATIC OILER – delivers proper chain lubrication and increased productivity
- PRO STYLE TENSIONING – for easy bar and chain maintenance
Are You Ready for Your Next (or First) Arboriculture Project?
Whether you’re a hobbyist or a serious arboriculturist, you must know how to use a chainsaw proficiently. When you use your chainsaw expertly, you’ll make light work of your project and enjoy the entire process. But if you don’t know how to use a chainsaw safely, you’ll likely injure yourself and won’t enjoy working around trees as much.
And even if you only need a chainsaw for occasional yard work, or you’re the handy DIYer who loves one too many tools, investing in a chainsaw training course is worth your time and money.
With proper chainsaw safety training, a chainsaw is your best handy friend. Without training, you’ll be the poor workman who blames his tools.