Greg Bowman

Growing up in the area, our family used firewood as the main source of heating our homes in the winter months. In fact, on the family farm, we would have wood hauling days where my grandfather would cut down certain trees for firewood. We had a long bed truck that would haul hay in the summer months and then firewood in the fall and winter. It was hard work, but nice to have a warm home on a cold winter day.

A chainsaw can be a useful tool when you are working with trees. Chainsaws can help drop a dying tree, used to take off limbs or even cut fallen trees into sections. Anytime you work with a chainsaw, safety has to be your number one concern. Today, I will be sharing information on chainsaw safety tips from a UGA publication by Glen Rains, UGA Safety Extension Specialist.

For starters, you need to find a chainsaw designed for the work you plan on conducting. In addition, the chainsaw needs to have certain safety features in place that can assist in keeping you injury free. Keep in mind that before operating a chainsaw, you need proper training, need to follow safe operating practices and according to Rains, use common sense at all times. I will not go over all safety features, but a few noted in our publication is the hand guard, chain brake for gasoline chainsaws, bumper spikes and a stop switch. The front hand guard is a bar in front of the top handle made to stop a slipping hand from making contact with the chain. The rear hand guard is designed to protect the hand from a broken or jumping chain. The chain brake is made to stop a moving chain in a fraction of a second if kickback happens thus reducing your chances of severe injury. This feature may function as the front hand guard. The bumper spike is used to rest the chain saw on wood as you are cutting to prevent kickback. The stop switch is a safety feature that should be located where you can activate easy with your right thumb without losing your grip on the right handle of the chainsaw. There are additional safety features to research, but I wanted to give you information on some important features to research.

Keep in mind that Dr. Rains states that the best saw is the one you can comfortably handle and is appropriate for the type of work you do most often. A light-weight chainsaw is good for use such as cutting limbs, firewood and small trees. A mid-weight chainsaw is better for frequent uses and a heavy-weight chainsaw is for professional use only.

When you start a chainsaw, remember to hold it firmly in place. Remove all loose debris from the area and make sure the guide bar is not touching anything. Also, make sure the chain brake is engaged.

Using a chainsaw is tough work and will put a strain on your back. Stretching is suggested and even strengthening your back muscles can be suggested to reduce back strain. You need to dress appropriately for the activity. Choose clothes that are close fitting but not confining, per Rains. Wear steel toe boots and even a hard hat to protect your head from falling tree material. Use gloves to prevent cuts and burns and even safety glasses to protect your eyes.

In addition, if you will be using a chainsaw for extended lengths of time, chainsaw safety chaps could also be helpful. You will also need the correct tools for chainsaw repair and maintenance. You may need a wrench, screwdriver, sharpening file and a small sharpening gauge. If cutting down trees, you may need a wedge and mall, sledge hammer or hatchet to help drop a tree in the best direction.

Dr. Rains adds that if you are tired or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, even prescription medication, you do not need to be operating a chainsaw.

Study up on the saw you are using, including the controls. This information can be found in the user’s manual. You need to know about the cut-off switch and how to do maintenance chores such as how to sharpen blades and lubricate the chainsaw. Don’t forget to be knowledgeable on the proper gas to oil mixture for the engine. It is a good idea for first timers to learn from an experienced chainsaw operator. Do not use a chainsaw by yourself and make sure you are aware of the locations of all other people in the area. Never let a child operate a chainsaw and do not use a chainsaw with children close to the area. Even keep other observers out of the work area, especially if you are felling a tree. Do not use a chainsaw where it will be held higher than your waist during operation. You chance of injury goes up when the chainsaw is used higher than your waist. Do not cut with the tip of the saw. Kickback happens when the tip of the saw bar contacts wood or a solid surface and is pushed back from the object. Kickback is the leading cause of chainsaw injury.

For more information, contact UGA Extension-Gordon County at 706-629-8685 or email