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Forestry Resources

What safety equipment is needed for chainsaw use?

Chainsaws are equipped with safety features such as chain brakes and chain catchers that should not be removed. Chainsaw safety starts when you purchase the saw. Don’t just purchase a saw by itself. Purchase Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) along with it. PPE does not prevent accidents, but it may minimize injuries and damage during an accident.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires the following PPE to be used by any employee who uses a chainsaw:

  • hard hat (if an overhead hazard exists, such as when cutting a tree)
  • eye protection
  • hearing protection
  • gloves
  • leg protection
  • foot protection

Homeowners using chainsaws should do the same.

Since the most commonly injured body part is the legs, leg protection is important. Leg protection is most commonly provided in the form of saw chaps. These chaps have multiple layers of Kevlar or ballistic nylon (similar to bullet-proof vests) that are easily drawn into the saw by the saw teeth. Once the material is drawn into the saw, it stops the chain from running. The cost of these chaps ($70) is less than a doctor’s visit. Many loggers will tell you that saw chaps are hot in summer, but still worth wearing because of the protection they afford.

Hearing protection is also very important. Operating a properly functioning chainsaw for more than two hours without hearing protection will begin permanent hearing loss. If the muffler is removed, permanent hearing loss will start in 15 minutes. Hearing protection comes in two forms – ear plugs and ear muffs. Muffs are slightly more effective than plugs and do not aggravate earwax buildup. Earplugs are more comfortable in hot weather. Either kind works well with normal chainsaw use.

Eye protection comes in many forms and is used to keep sawdust out of the eyes. The stylish sunshades that wrap around the side of the eye are effective for most chainsaw use and are readily available.

(Richard P. Vlosky, School of Renewable Natural Resources, LSU AgCenter) 10-3-05

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Where can chainsaw safety equipment be purchased?

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is available from most dealers who sell chainsaws, although you may have to ask them to special order it.

PPE is also available from catalog stores (the following list is not an endorsement of any vendor), such as:

(Richard P. Vlosky, School of Renewable Natural Resources, LSU AgCenter) 10-3-05

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Where can I obtain information about chainsaw use, cutting techniques and safety?

The Chainsaw - Use and Maintenance. Swedish Board of Forestry. 67 pages. (paperback). This publication is very comprehensive and covers chainsaw maintenance, equipment, cutting techniques and tree felling techniques.

Sharp Advice for Chainsaw Owners. Andreas Stihl AG & Co., Wailblingen. 21 pages. (available in Adobe pdf format). This booklet covers only the chainsaw itself and not cutting techniques.

Neither publication is commonly available, and one of them appears to be out of print. Interested persons are encouraged to contact to Dr. Cornelis de Hoop, (225) 578-4242 or

Web sites The North Dakota State University Extension Service has links to several other particularly good sites. U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration site. Click on “L”, then go to “Logging eTools”. This site also has other safety information on storm cleanup.

Equipment Manufacturers
Many manufacturers offer good safety information and technical information on their Web sites. Some also carry their own lines of chainsaw PPE. Popular chainsaw and saw chain brands marketed in Louisiana include:

Professional logger associations with links to safety sites:

(Richard P. Vlosky, School of Renewable Natural Resources, LSU AgCenter) 10-3-05

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