IV. Safety Guidelines For Chainsaw Operations


Chainsaws are an integral part of many logging operations. Chainsaw related injuries are still reported frequently. Most chainsaw injuries are the results of saw "kickback." Kickback occurs when the saw bar tip or the top of the saw bar strikes an object and throws the saw in the direction of the operator. Severe injuries are reported to the legs, hands, arms, and face. Proper training, techniques, equipment, and personal protective equipment can reduce the potential of kickback and chainsaw related injuries. IMPORTANT. Refer to the chainsaw manufacturer's operators manual before operating any chainsaw.

  1. Proper personal protective equipment shall be used by all saw operators.
  2. Transporting the chainsaw:
    By Hand: Stop the chainsaw engine. Grip the saw handle and place the muffler at the side away from the body with the guide bar to the rear.
    By Vehicle: Keep the chain and bar covered with a chain guard. Properly secure the saw to prevent turnover, fuel and oil spillage, and damage to the saw.
  3. Chainsaws shall be equipped with a chainbrake, and shall otherwise meet the requirements of the ANSI B 175.1 - 1991 "Safety Requirements for Gasoline Owner Chainsaws."
  4. Do not remove or disable chainsaw kickback devices. Under no circumstances should the chainbrake be removed. Bow saws should be equipped with top and bottom guards.
  5. Maintain handles, chainbrakes, chain, and covers for safe operation. Use low kickback chain (safety saw chain).
  6. Start the chainsaw with the chainbrake engaged.
  7. Always start the saw on the ground. Engage the chainbrake, place one foot through the handle, hold the top handle firmly, and make an even pull on the starter rope. DO NOT DROP START A SAW OR START A SAW ON YOUR KNEE.
  8. Adjust the engine idle speed so the chain is not moving when the engine is idling.
  9. When moving from tree to tree or when moving to another work area within 50 feet where hazardous conditions exist or when moving farther than 50 feet, stop the chainsaw or engage the chainbrake.
  10. Always maintain a firm grip with both hands on the saw for control. Position the thumb and fingers around the top handle grip for best and safest control.
  11. Never use the saw above shoulder height and never over reach. The chainsaw shall not be used to cut directly overhead.
  12. Always keep the bar nose clear of other objects during cutting to prevent kickback. Avoid cutting with the upper part of the bar or use extreme caution when this technique cannot be avoided.
  13. Before refueling, if possible allow the saw to cool. Refuel in a clean area on bare soil. Chainsaws shall be fueled at a distance not less than 10-feet from an open flame or potential source of ignition. Use an OSHA approved fuel can. Wipe fuel and oil spills from the saw. Move at least 10-feet from the fueling spot before starting the engine.
  14. Do not operate a chainsaw when tired. Overtired operators have less control and are more accident prone.
  15. Keep a first aid kit and fire extinguisher within a reasonable distance of chainsaw operations.


Felling timber is recognized as the most hazardous job in logging. Safety in felling must be the most important goal of the job. More workers are severely injured, maimed, or killed while felling timber than in any other phase of the logging operation. Proper training, planning, felling techniques, safety, and common sense will not only ensure safe operation, but will increase the quality of the cut log. 

  1. Use proper personal protective equipment.
  2. Clear the area around the tree of brush and other obstructions before cutting.
  3. Each tree shall be checked for lean, limbs, shape, crook, wind direction, butt defects and dead, lodged limbs. Plan the tree's direction of fall. Observe and allow for hazards in surrounding trees which may be "triggered" by the tree being felled.
  4. Plan and clear an escape path at a 45-degree angle in the opposite direction to the planned direction of tree fall.
  5. Employees shall be spaced and duties organized such that the actions of one employee will not create hazards for other personnel.
  6. Work areas shall be assigned so that trees cannot fall into an adjacent occupied work area. The distance between adjacent occupied work areas shall be at least two tree lengths of the trees being felled.
  7. Make the proper undercut on all trees regardless of size. Never cut a standing tree completely through in one continuous cut. Leave a sufficient hinge of wood between the undercut and felling cut. This helps reduce tree kickback and maintain control of the direction of tree fall. Undercuts are required unless employer demonstrates felling without undercuts will not create an employee hazard.
  8. Use wedges when necessary to aid the direction of the fall.
  9. Backcuts shall be above the level of the horizontal cut of the undercut. Exceptions: The backcut may be at or below the horizontal cut in tree pulling operations.
  10. Always keep to the side of the tree being felled. When the tree starts to fall, stop the engine or engage the chain brake, withdraw the bar, and walk away on the preplanned escape path. Never turn your back on the falling tree. Beware of falling limbs.
  11. Do not approach a chainsaw tree faller closer than twice the height of trees being felled until the faller has acknowledged that it is safe to do so. No one should approach a chainsaw operator while the saw is running. If the employer demonstrates that a team of employees is necessary to manually fell a particular tree, then employees can approach the faller only after the faller has acknowledged it is safe to do so. As an additional precaution, fallers should warn fellow workers of a falling tree with a shout such as "timber.
  12. Never leave a lodged tree, also called a "danger tree," because it may fall unexpectedly. Never work in the area of a lodged tree. Each danger tree shall be felled using mechanical or other techniques that minimize employee exposure before work is commenced in the area of the danger tree. Always have lodged trees safely pulled or pushed down with the aid of a skidder, tractor, or other heavy equipment.
  13. If the danger tree is not felled, it shall be marked and no work shall be conducted within two tree lengths of it unless the employer demonstrates that a shorter distance will not create a hazard to employees. Safely mark the lodged tree, preferably with high visibility colored plastic tape, and move two tree lengths away from the tree before resuming work.
  14. Domino falling of trees is prohibited. Falling a single danger tree by falling another single tree into it is not recommended. Never climb lodged trees or attempt to cut sections out of a lodged tree. Never cut the tree supporting a lodged tree.
  15. Use extreme caution when felling timber on windy days.
  16. Fell trees into clear areas when possible to reduce the chances of lodging a tree.
  17. The immediate supervisor shall be consulted when conditions appear unusually hazardous.


Injuries received during limbing operations are mainly chainsaw lacerations to the legs, hands, and arms. These injuries occur when workers are limbing trees with large bushy tops, in thick underbrush, and cutting limbs in a bind. Proper training and limbing technique and use of personal protection can reduce the injury potential.

  1. Use proper personal protective equipment.

  2. Make sure footing is sound. Do not get off balance. Stand with feet in the clear.
  3. Start limbing from the butt end of the tree and work toward the top.
  4. On steep slopes always stand on the uphill side of a tree.
  5. Limb from the ground. Do not walk on the tree.
  6. To reduce kickback danger do not limb with the tip of the saw.
  7. Watch the "spring or jump" of limbs in a bind.
  8. Use extreme caution when cutting "spring poles". Make several shallow cuts first to release the tension before completely cutting through.
  9. Using extreme caution, cut supporting limbs last. Cutting these limbs may cause the log to roll.
  10. When cutting large limbs, be alert to the chain binding and the saw kicking back.
  11. To prevent pinching the chainsaw bar do not underbuck freely hanging limbs.
  12. Maintain a safe operating distance from other felling, skidding, and chainsaw operations.


The most common injuries received while bucking are saw cuts to the feet and legs. Many injuries are also caused by logs rolling onto workers' legs and feet. Bucking should be done in as clear an area as possible to avoid saw tip contact with other logs which may result in kickback.

  1. Use proper personal protective equipment.
  2. Plan cuts before starting the saw.
  3. Stand with legs well apart, braced, and with secure footing. Do not get in an off balance position. Do not stand directly behind the saw while bucking to avoid injury in the event of kickback.
  4. Keep legs and feet from under the saw.
  5. On steep slopes work on the uphill side. If a tree is in a dangerous position, have a skidder or other proper equipment move it into a safe position.
  6. Work from the butt to the top of tree. Never walk on a tree.
  7. Keep the saw bar tip clear and avoid using the extreme tip of the saw for bucking, as this may result in a kickback.
  8. If using a bar chainsaw, start the undercut first.
  9. Bow chainsaws should have their top and bottom chain guards in place at all times.
  10. Keep the chain out of contact with rocks, gravel, and the ground.
  11. Never leave a log partially cut.
  12. Make sure the chain is not turning and keep your finger off the throttle trigger when walking between cuts.
  13. Maintain a safe operating distance between you and other fellers, buckers, and logging operations.