Person about to cut into log with chainsaw

How to use a chainsaw safely

Published 5th January 2023
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Chainsaws are a powerful and useful tool for cutting wood, but they can also be dangerous if used incorrectly. That’s why it’s important to understand how to use a chainsaw safely. This blog post will provide an in-depth guide on how to use a chainsaw safely, from pre-use checks and preparation through to the cutting process and post-use maintenance. And you don't own one already, make sure you read our buyer's guide for tips on finding the perfect model!

Pre-use checks & preparing yourself

Before using a chainsaw, it is essential that you perform some basic safety checks and preparations. Firstly, make sure that the saw is suitable for the job and carry out some maintenance if needed. We explain how to do this in our blog 'how to care for your chainsaw.'

Once you have checked your saw is safe to use, you should prepare yourself for work by wearing appropriate protective clothing such as a hard hat, eye protection, hearing protection, gloves and non-slip boots with steel toe caps.

Make sure any loose clothing or jewellery is removed before starting work as these could get caught in the moving parts of the saw.

Assessing the cutting area

Before cutting anything, double check your work area to make sure there are as few tripping hazards as possible. Remove the ones you can take care of yourself and make note of any you can't remove. For example, if you're using a corded electric chainsaw, always be aware of where the cord is located and make sure you can't trip over it. If you're using a saw horse to cut logs into pieces, make sure it's steady and level before you start.

How to hold your chainsaw

How you hold your chainsaw is extremely important to ensuring safe operation. The best technique is to hold the front grip with your left hand, keeping your thumb wrapped around the handle. Simultaneously keep your left arm straight with your elbow locked.

You'll also want to stand in a stable position with your legs apart. If you're cutting wood that's low, bend at your waist to get the chainsaw close to the wood your cutting, then your knees to lower the chainsaw the rest of the way. Stand slightly off to the left of whatever you're cutting to avoid kickback.

Starting up your chainsaw

When starting up your chainsaw, always read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully first as different models may require slightly different procedures for starting up safely. Generally speaking though, most modern petrol chainsaws will require you to:

  • Move the choke lever into position.
  • Pull out on the starter cord until resistance is felt.
  • Push in on the starter cord until it engages.
  • Pull out on the starter cord quickly several times until the motor starts.
  • Move the choke lever back into its running position once the motor has started.
  • Allow the chainsaw to warm up before beginning work – it's best to wait about five minutes before starting to cut anything.

If you own a cordless chainsaw or corded electric chainsaw, all you need to do is make sure the chainsaw is steady then pull the trigger - the electric motor will do the rest.

Using your chainsaw safely

Once your chainsaw is running, you can begin using it safely by following these steps:

  • With the chain running at full speed, press against the wood with a firm, steady pressure. Don't push too hard or try to force the chainsaw to cut faster – it will cut through the wood fast enough. Ease up on the pressure as soon as you're done.
  • Avoid overreaching or straining during operation.
  • Keep fingers away from the chain when not actively cutting.
  • Use lower speed setting when possible
  • Don’t cut above shoulder height with a normal chainsaw - use a

    Pole saw instead

How to avoid kickback

Kickback is a common hazard when using a chainsaw. It happens when the chainsaw's rotational energy is thrown back at you and causes you to lose control of the chainsaw. There are a couple of different types of kickback to watch out for:

Rotational kickback

This is the most common type, and happens when the top of the front of the chainsaw touches a piece of wood or other solid object. This causes the chainsaw to kick up and straight back. To avoid rotational kickback, make sure to cut with the middle of the chainsaw and don't let anything touch the tip of the chainsaw while it's on. Standing slightly to the left of the cutting line will also reduce the risk of a rotational kickback causing injury.

Linear kickback

Linear kickback happens when the chain gets pinched. If friction causes the chain to stop completely when the motor is running all that energy has to go somewhere, and the quickest release is to shut the entire chainsaw backwards. To avoid linear kickback, always keep your chainsaw blade sharp and avoid the impulse to force the chainsaw through wood too quickly.

Pull-in kickback

Pull-in kickback happens when your chainsaw hits something else as you're cutting through the wood. The chain's teeth catch on this new object and yank the chainsaw forward, causing you to lose grip or form. To avoid this happening, always check every piece of wood for nails, branches on the other end of the wood or other objects.

That's all you need to know in order to use your chainsaw safely. Follow these tips and stay calm and concentrate when you're using the power tool to avoid injury.

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