Mill Site Chainsaw Safety

A growing area for Forest Applications Training is our MSCS Program. Since the rise of OSHA awareness in the use of the chainsaw at all worksites, mills and woodyards across the USA are looking to improve training of their saw handling employees. The MSCS program is directed at these employees.

Forest Applications Training, Inc. , P.O. Box 429, Rome, GA 30162

Ph. 770-543-9862  or



Mill Site Chainsaw Safety Topical Outline:

Personal Protection Equipment Requirements

8. Good fitting work gloves or saw mittens.

Chainsaw Features

Reactive Forces

The Bore-cut

The Hinge

Information Plan

Springs and Jams

RDT Maintenance



One day training program 8:00am - 4:15pm for full class. Six hour class time minimum.

The class should consist of 12 persons or less per instructor. The training will be hands-on, so the participants need to have eye and ear protection and leg protection to be passed through the group.

We would like to have a chainsaw per every two participants for the maintenance. They could bring their own personal saws for this if more saws are needed. They should bring correct saw file and bar wrench tool for the saw. These tools can be supplied but an accurate equipment list must be provided.

Classroom or shop area is needed for one to two hours of the program if weather is undesirable.

The following materials are needed for the training:

2ea 10' x 16" log (clean if possible) (any species)

1ea per participant 4' x 16"-20" (any species)

1ea per participant gum, hickory or other bend-able saplings.

(3"-4" at base 25' tall/long [ this is not mandatory but better illustrates pressures] )

All wood should be not be dried. As "green" as possible.

Training is performed in the unique CRT format. Competition achieves results in the training. Points are applied to areas of safety and skill to make the training process measurable as well as enjoyable for the participants. Small award prizes are given to higher achievers.

Please also remember that training to prevent accidents on the job also works to reduce accidents off the job. Firewood, storm damage, and chain saw use off the job cost the company time and money in downtime and sometimes insurance costs. Training pays in many ways!



The following is for your improved understanding of the training materials covered.

PPE Review



Head Protection

Helmets are necessary equipment when working in the forest, or when trees, construction, etc., are overhead.

Glasses / Screens

Eye glasses and face screens are a necessity when working with chain saws and other forest equipment.

Safety glasses should comply with the ANSI Z.87.1 1979 standards for eye protection. Face screens should not replace safety glasses. OSHA does recognize the face screen as adequate for most saw operations. Face screens are designed to deflect or stop small particles such as wood chips from the face. These screens can assist the glasses or goggles in protecting the eyes, but they are not designed for projectile eye protection.

Earplugs / Muffs

Hearing damage caused by exposure to loud continuous noises can be reduced with the use of hearing protection. Working around chain saws and other forest related equipment can be harmful to your hearing. Authorities say noises louder than 85 dbA can over an extended time cause permanent hearing loss. Remember, any hearing loss is permanent.

Warning: Chain saws, skidders and loaders are noisy. The best way to limit the noise is by reducing the volume at the ear.

Hearing protection should comply with the ANSI S3. 19-1974 standards. You should look for another rating to match your noise conditions also. For most saw operations an NRR. Rating, (Noise Reduction Rating) factor should be a minimum of 22dB. The higher the rating, the more noise is limited from your ear.

There are many types of hearing protection available. Check for the NRR before you choose a product because of price.

Other than price the factors are:

Chainsaw Leg Protection

Without question, the most frequent chain saw accidents involve the legs. The severity of many of these accidents could be reduced if the chain saw operator would wear leg protection.

The purpose of leg protection is not to be cut-proof! Leg protection is only designed to lessen the severity of an accident should it occur.

The materials used in leg protection garments vary by manufacturer. Two most used and well-known materials are Dupont Kevlar and the Nylons of Engtex. Both materials perform in providing ample protection if they are of sufficient layers, and are sewn into the garments properly.

The major difference between the two materials is the washing and drying requirements. Make sure your protective garment, as with any equipment, is easily maintained. This is very important. In the case of protective clothing, you must be able to wash and dry the material easily to retain the protection built into the garment. A soiled material reduces the amount of protection. Check the washing and care instructions before you purchase leg protection for your use. Look for something that is easily cleaned and dried.

Check local regulations on chain saw leg protection before you buy. We recommend you to look for UL Classification labels referencing the APA North American Leg Protection Standard. This assures you of a quality protection garment. Chaps

Chaps are the most widely used form of leg protection. Chaps are offered in many styles and materials from thin nylon, to blue cotton denim, to very abrasion resistant Dupont Cordura. Most chap designs have buckle snaps in the rear of the legs and a buckle snap on the waist strap. All of these straps are usually adjustable to assure a comfortable fit. It is important that the straps be pulled tight to insure the leg cover doesn't twist when coming in contact with a turning saw chain. Chap designs also have become available in full wrap around versions. These wrap versions offer more leg area covering in areas where some accidents occur, the calf area of the leg. These full wrap versions should be considered in your purchase.

Many people purchase chaps with the idea of getting low cost leg protection, later finding that leggings or pants are more comfortable and easier to care for, especially in professional applications.


Leggings offer removable protection with coverage areas much like pants. A legging style usually looks much like a pant's leg that has been cut off at the crotch area. The leggings are then pulled over the leg. The top of the legging usually has a strap or VELCRO flap to adjust the length and fit of the legging. A zipper is usually placed in the inside area of the leg to aid in removal and installing the leggings over your boots and existing pants. These are usually a little more comfortable than the strap style chaps because of the fit behind the legs. There is less chance of hang-up in brush, etc.


Pants are recognized by professionals as the most desirable form of leg protection. The pants offer a cooler and more comfortable working environment than that of pull over or strap on protection. The pants are usually a little easier to maintain and generally last longer than other types. When choosing protective pants look for sewn in protection. Inserts tend to pull out or bunch up during use and are generally rough on your exposed skin.


Foot protection is usually considered at the bottom of the personal equipment list. Many people overlook the need for proper foot wear, protection, and support when working with the chain saw. When working around moving objects or lifting objects in our work tasks, it is important to cover and support our feet and ankles when possible. There are three areas to consider when purchasing foot protection. The first is quality material suitable for your job conditions. Second is the support and protection they give. Third, is good traction.

Quality boots will last and provide comfort regardless of your work conditions.

Leather in dry weather is superior, and even damp conditions support the light weight and comfort of leather. When the conditions become wet, it is necessary to choose a waterproof boot, such as one of heavy duty rubber with adequate support for the ankle area. When the conditions are cold and wet a good insulation is a necessity. Check all combinations available from sources. Don't try to meet all the element needs with one pair of boots. Take into consideration drying time. A spare set of boots will extend the life of your footwear and make your feet more appreciative.



Chainsaw Safety Features

Hand Guard / Chain Brake

Chainsaws should be equipped with a hand guard and chain brake for all mill operations. The chain brake can be used as a parking brake when starting and moving with the saw between cutting positions. This offers increased security from personal injury. The chain brake can assist in reducing injury from kicks and pushes by stopping the chain rotation when activated by hand or inertia.

Throttle Trigger Lockout

The trigger lockout is a system to assure the operator's right hand is in the throttle use position before the saw can be accelerated. A stick or limb cannot enter the trigger area and accelerate the saw unknowingly.

Chain Catcher

The chain catcher is designed of a soft material such as aluminum or nylon to resist saw chain tooth damage and still collect the chain in the front of the saw crankcase should it break or derail. This catcher helps to eliminate injury by shortening the derailed or broken chain, keeping it from contacting the operator.

User Ergonomics

Stop Switch

The stop switch should be operative and should be found within "thumbs reach" of the operators hand.

Choke Lever

The choke lever assembly should be operable. Application of the choke mechanism should be simple and used when the engine is cold only. A warm or up to operating temperature engine should not require choking.


The width, length and height of the chainsaw power head should be considered for proper task application. An awkward design can sometimes increase fatigue and thus effect safety.


Guide Bar

The chainsaw should be equipped with a sprocket nose type guide bar with a small reduced kick-back end radius. Bow guide bars are not suited for conveyor and yard applications and increase the risk of reactive forces possibly causing injury. Bar lengths for specific tasks are important and should be matched to the power of the chainsaw.

Saw Chain Selection

The most important part of any chainsaw is the saw chain and its maintenance. The proper chain should be mounted and used as recommended by the chainsaw manufacturer. Saw chain meeting ANSI low-kickback requirements should be used whenever possible in conveyor jam and mill site applications but should not replace proper training of the reactive forces and the selection of planned technique for the task.




There are three reactive forces that should be understood before one attempts to operate a chain saw.


Push Back occurs when the chain, turning under power, becomes bound on the upper side of the cutting guide bar. This can also be caused by the chain coming in contact with a solid item or wood when cutting with the top of the bar. When this occurs the saw and guide bar are thrust backward possibly coming in contact with the operator. This reaction can happen in conjunction with kick-back causing a backward and upward thrust of the saw.


Kick back occurs when the rotating saw chain comes in contact with a solid object, or the chain is pinched in a cut, in the upper 50% of the saw bar tip. This can be a very violent action.


This is the third and most overlooked area of reactive forces. When cutting normally with the lower side of the guide bar, with the pulling chain, the operator can find him or herself off balance very quickly. It is important to be in a good stance with feet apart and equal weight balanced to insure you will not be pulled forward into the work. If the saw becomes bound while cutting in the pulling condition, the saw could be pulled forward very rapidly causing the operator to lose control or fall over the saw. It could also happen that the bar tip is pulled through the wood, exposing the tip and hitting another object. That causes a combination kick-back.


  • Back Pressure - Back pressure may be encountered in many situations. In felling and in removal of mill conveyor jams the pressures from a jam or fall can be hazardous if your plan and tools are not suitable. Make sure the tree or log section hasn't come in contact with an object that may cause the trunk, limb or log to shoot back toward you when a cut is made.
  • Side Pressure - Side pressure can sometimes be hard to locate and evaluate. These situations may cause the log to swing to the side toward or away from you in a violent motion. It is important to always take accurate and sure information before making a cut.
  • Binds

  • Up and Down Binds - These binds are encountered when a limb or log has fallen over uneven ground or is held off the ground or conveyor. Cuts must be planned carefully to reduce the risk of pinching your saw bar or causing a violent reaction.
  • Side Binds - This type of bind is caused when the log is twisted or has fallen next to another object. This can be frequently found in logs that have been forced against the ground or another object.
  • Special Cuts

  • When bucking or removing jams there are a number of cuts that could be used. It is important that you select a cut that will reduce the chances of the bar and saw becoming pinched or stuck in a cut. It is most important that you are considering your own stance and hazards into consideration before making a cut. There are three special cuts that can be used to reduce injury factors.
  • Mis-Match Cut - This cut can be used in bucking and limbing. It consists of two cuts. One cut is to be placed from the pressure side of the limb or log to a point close to half the diameter, then a second cut on the other (non-pressure) side is placed 2" to 6" up or down the log or limb. The depth of the second cut is to be just deep enough to pass the depth of the first cut. This allows the fiber to hold and reduce chances of kicking up or rolling of the log or limb until the log moves.
  • Wedge Cut - The wedge cut is done as any normal bucking cut. To make sure you do not become pinched, from hidden pressures in the log, simply insert one or two wedges in the kerf as you saw into the log. This holds the log from closing and binding the saw. The technique should be used in situations where information is questionable, or on a landing where logs are sometimes laying flat.
  • Notch Cut- The first cut to make is a notch of 70 degrees or more to allow for a hinge to bend or flex offering the operator control of a removal situation. This allows jams to be removed without loss of control in some situations.


    RDT Maintenance Review

    The system we use is the "RDT" system. The letters stand for Reduced Down Time. A repair is not the largest expense of a failure. It's the downtime that costs, when an accident occurs or production is being lost. "RDT" is the overall goal of any preventative maintenance program. Safety is directly related to the proper upkeep and service of the chainsaw. A chainsaw not cutting or performing correctly means pressures must be applied by the operator which increase a major cause of injury, fatigue.

    The place to start on setting up any system is to do a quick study of the situation. Some of the areas to observe are:

  • 1. How many working hours are placed on the units daily. We should not be concerned with the work day hours, but production hours. Your work day may be from 6:00am until 5:00pm. What we need for the effectiveness of the system are the actual working hours, production hours. To get this figure you must use a stop watch and keep the actual time the unit is running in an hour (this can also be done by monitoring fuel tanks). In most cases you will find no more than 45 minutes of run time per hour. This reduces the actual run time total for the day (7.5 hours total).
  • 2. Analyze the total number of hours per week from the time study. Formalize a system for recording the hours so they can be kept on a running total basis.
  • 3. Check the running conditions of the units . Are they in excessive dirt and abrasive conditions (such as sandy soils, landing usage where heavy equipment is causing excessive dust).
  • 4. Notice any signs of wear on the units. Sprockets, chains, guide bars. What components have been the most frequent and largest costs to date? Are filters and hose the most frequent and largest costs, or are cylinders and pistons the most frequent repairs? Maybe replacement of small items can eliminate some of the major repairs? Are small things such as starter repairs and screws, nuts and bolts causing missed production?
  • 5. Use a stopwatch to time some average cuts throughout the working day. Are the times staying consistent...are the chains running dull? Dull chains wear guide bars, chain sprockets, cause powder saw dust that plug filters, adds vibrations that effect bearings and seals, then most of all, add to the operator's fatigue. Many of these items hamper production and can effect operator safety.
  • This information can be compiled to help you understand when and why preventative maintenance needs to be performed. I would suggest that a systematic cleanup and checkup be performed on the units. This starts with a daily inspection.


    1. Safety Features
    2. Missing Parts
    3. Starter
    4. Lubrication
    5. Air Filter
    6. Saw Chain
    7. Engine & Chain Adjustments


    It has proven to be most effective to rotate items such as saw chain loops, guide bars, and air filters. The initial cost of stocking (putting into your running stock) these items is far out weighed by the overall savings.

    Video Available



    Chainsaw Review

    Here is a list of information about the saw and the operation of it that should be reviewed often. It is important the operator be aware of himself and his saw at all times.





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