Safe Chainsaw Selection, Use and Maintenance

Chainsaws are a powerful and time-saving tool that arborists use on a daily basis. Early versions of this commonplace tool were so large they needed wheels and took two people to operate! Fortunately, today, they’re much more practical and portable. However, they’re also dangerous. According to the University of Texas, 36,000 people are injured by chainsaws every year. As professional arborists, we get plenty of practice and training in how to use a chainsaw, but that doesn’t mean an accident can’t happen. It is always important to review and follow all safety procedures for powerful equipment such as chainsaws.

Selecting the Right Chainsaw for the Job

The first step to chainsaw safety is to select the right tool for the job. If a saw is too small, both you and the saw have to work too hard, but if it’s too large, you can experience kickback. You need a smaller chainsaw when climbing trees and larger models to use on the ground. Typically, you will have a range of about three sizes to choose from. For small, fast jobs, a handsaw might suffice instead of a chainsaw. Use only as much size and power as you actually need.

Inspecting the Chainsaw Before Use

Confirm that all of the manufacturer’s safety features are in place and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use. Look over the chainsaw and confirm that it has all of the following:

  • Accessible, functional on/off switch
  • Manual chain brake
  • Inertial chain brake
  • Chain catch
  • Hand guard
  • Anti-vibration handles and controls
  • Throttle interlock
  • Spark arrestor
  • Exhaust that blows away from chainsaw operator

Never modify or remove the safety features.

Using the Chainsaw Safely

An operator should demonstrate correct operation of the chainsaw on the ground before climbing into a tree. As with all tree work, before you begin, check the area in and around the tree for hazards such as electric wires, tree rot or foreign objects.

Personal Protective Equipment

Above all, make sure to wear correct personal protective equipment (PPE) when operating a chainsaw. This should include:

  • A helmet
  • Hearing protection
  • ANSI Z87.1-compliant eye protection
  • Gloves
  • Sturdy footwear 
  • Heavy pants or chaps

Carrying a Chainsaw

Always carry with the bar to the rear. When carrying a chainsaw more than two steps always turn it off or engage the chain brake. Never carry it on your shoulder.

Starting a Chainsaw

Drop-starting a chain saw is prohibited. Before starting a chainsaw, move at least 10 feet from the fueling location and any other personnel. Confirm that the chain brake is engaged and hold onto the saw firmly. The saw should start with one to two pulls. If it takes more, discontinue use and have the chainsaw serviced.

Safe Positioning While Using the Saw


When using a chainsaw in a tree, you must have two means of attachment. Take a proper stance with secure footing. Keep the left elbow straight with the left hand on the forward handle and the thumb on the underside. Place the right hand on the rear handle. Keep hands firmly positioned on the handles with a full grip. Never operate a chainsaw with one hand. 


The body should be entirely to the left of the saw. Do not cut across your body and never cut above shoulder height. Never use it at a distance from your body that may throw off your balance.

Maintaining a Chainsaw Correctly

Stop the engine for all cleaning, refueling or maintenance. When refueling a chainsaw, allow the saw to cool first. Add oil first and then perform any maintenance operations such as sharpening or cleaning the saw. Each manufacturer may have unique care standards, so it is best to consult with your equipment manual for the necessary maintenance checks on your saw. 


Chainsaws should be inspected on a daily basis. Check to make sure that: 

  • On/off switch and chain brake are operable
  • Chain catch in good condition
  • Throttle interlock is operational
  • Spark arrestor in place
  • Anti-vibration mounts are in good condition
  • Cutting teeth are sharp

Wear in one area can lead to excess wear in another, so never put off even minor repairs. By taking care of a chainsaw properly, you help to ensure its efficient operation, prolong its life and, most importantly, protect the safety of yourself and others.

Posted: 5/18/2020 11:30:35 AM by Global Administrator