More than 30,000 electric and gas chainsaw injuries are reported every year in the United States. In some cases, the injuries are caused by mere carelessness, while a significant number are a result of product defects or poor design or even inaccurate operating procedures outlined by the manufacturers.
A Statistical Overview
- Over 25% of chainsaw injuries in the United States annually are a consequence of ‘kickback.’ This is usually caused when the guide bar tip brushes against a hard surface causing a sudden upward jerk.
- Typically, kickbacks can result in wounds to the face, shoulder, neck or even the hand.
- The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that about 36% of chainsaw wounds impact the knees and legs.
- In 2012, about 31,000 chainsaw injury cases were treated within hospital emergency rooms as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Typically, most injuries needed 110 stitches according to data published in NEISS Report – 2012 by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.
- More than $350 million is spent annually on medical expenses for chainsaw injuries as reported by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.
- Using both the hands to saw as well as wearing chainsaw pants or chaps is likely to minimize chainsaw injuries by 75% or higher.
- Assuming that recovery times would be four weeks, the annual workers’ compensation expenses would likely amount to $125 million.
- While the loss of productivity, as well as an impact on the quality of life, is harder to measure, this may, in fact, be the most significant cost associated with chainsaw injuries.
- Nearly 40% of chainsaw accidents affect the legs while over 35% injure the left wrist or the hand.
Key Causes of Chainsaw Injuries
Kickback is usually the result of a chainsaw hitting a solid surface or being squeezed into a small space. The term ‘kickback’ refers to a sudden backward thrust of the chainsaw that injures the user.
Typically, a pull-in occurs when the chains abruptly stop as a result of the saw being confined to a small space or when it lands on a solid object while cutting wood. This results in the chain unexpectedly pulling the saw forward, causing the worker to lose control.
Pushback is a result of the chain coming to a sudden halt because of a foreign object stuck in the wood. This causes the saw to be swiftly pushed back in the direction of the worker.
Watch YouTube Video: Tips for Avoiding Chainsaw Kickback. This video provides safety tips on how to avoid chainsaw kickback when operating the tool.
Need for Training
Given that working with a chainsaw has an intrinsic occupation hazard, and as published statistics have shown previously, it is critical that workers who regularly operate chainsaws are provided adequate training and skill development so that they are aware of how to competently and safely operate chainsaws.
It is equally important that employees are conversant with the relevant industry guidelines and can conform to acceptable operating procedures. Furthermore, the organization’s top management must offer adequate skills and safety training.
However, in many organizations, skill development training is often underutilized and disregarded. This could be the case primarily because most employees can handle chainsaws without any issues so training on how to use this tool could be skipped.
Now the use of battery-powered, as well as electric chainsaws that are more user-friendly, is more common. Technology has its advantages, and this helps employees use chainsaws who normally could be more at risk if they were using a gas powered chainsaw.
Aside from producing better-quality chainsaws, the industry also now focuses on enhanced Personal Protective Equipment or PPE, as well as better cutting protocols than before. Despite all the advancement, however, statistical evidence has shown that the number of causalities and fatal injuries (particularly when performing logging activities) continues to rise.
Employees must undergo routine training, with increased emphasis on skill development, safety, and productivity as vital to their professional success within the utility and the utility line clearance industry. A strong focus on staying updated on the latest cutting technology and associated tools – and using this know-how towards workplace integration – are all noteworthy goals.
Watch YouTube Video: How to Use a Chainsaw. Experts provide tips on safe and efficient chainsaw cutting techniques.
OSHA Safety Requirements for Chainsaw Operations
It is key to understand the training techniques and PPE mandated by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as well as the pointers that workers must focus on when starting a chainsaw.
OSHA stresses that employers who deal with tree removal or trimming are obligated to offer a safe work environment for workers.
Training and development must include:
- Work specifications, procedures, and regulations to be followed when establishing the work site, such as recognizing the need for safety and control of specific health hazards.
- Critical training on relevant OSHA guidelines, such as information on possible infections via blood-borne microbes, CPR, and first aid, as well as the minimum approach distance to the nearest live power line.
- How-To’s on safe work practices, such as detailed instructions on security measures to be adhered to, considering the specific health hazards that must be kept in mind when performing every task.
- How-To’s on the safe operation and maintenance of machinery, tools, and work vehicles that workers will need to use in the course of performing assigned tasks.
PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)
Operating chainsaws comes with associated risks, and using PPE is vital to minimizing or preventing grave injuries. All PPE must be examined before each use so as to confirm that they are in order. OSHA requires that specific PPE gear must be used to minimize possible health hazards such as:
- Hearing protection
- Head protection equipment
- Protection for the eyes and face
- Feet protection
- Leg protection
- Hand protection equipment
Prior to a Chainsaw Operation
Before starting to cut, workers using chainsaws must observe the following precautions:
- Check the controls and the chain tension, as well as all handles and bolts to ensure that the equipment is functioning per the manufacturer specifications.
- Ensure that the chains are sharp and that the lubrication reservoir has been filled.
- Ensure that gas-powered chainsaws are fueled at a minimum distance of ten feet from the ignition source or any visible or actual flame and that the fuel used is the appropriate mixture of oil and gas as specified by the manufacturer.
- Verify that the fuel container is metal or plastic, not exceeding five gallons and that it has been certified by a testing laboratory that has nationwide recognition.
- Ensure that electric, battery- gasoline-powered chainsaws have been equipped with appropriate protective gear that helps protect any user from a possible kickback episode.
Irrespective of the size of a business, or the allocated budgets for safety training and specific worker training needs, it is crucial for an organization to establish and implement appropriate workplace safety standards and best practices.
Employer Responsibilities Under Cal/OSHA
Cal/OSHA was enacted in 1973 to regulate occupational health and safety. With very few exceptions, California employers are obligated to abide by Cal/OSHA. California ranks among the states that have their own safety and health plans (which are approved by the Fed.) These plans precede federal OSHA. For more information, click here.
Chainsaw Accident Lawyers in Sacramento
I’m Ed Smith, a chainsaw accident lawyer in Sacramento. Legal action is often the only alternative for someone who has suffered injuries or for families that have suffered the death of a loved one due to a chainsaw accident. If you or a family member has been injured in a chainsaw accident, call me at 916-584-9355 for a free consultation.
I’ve been helping clients throughout Northern California, including Sacramento for 36 years with personal injury and wrongful death cases. My team and I have the knowledge to review your accident and help you get the compensation you or your family is entitled to.
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