Chainsaw Safety Features...

All modern saws come with a series of features designed to make it safer and more comfortable to use. We'll take a look at them now - there are ten common features and several optional extras that make the saw more user-friendly.

Read more about these safety features after the jump.

These ten features are listed below, some are perhaps more important than others, and some are a legal requirement...

  1. Chain brake (manual / inertia) / left hand guard. This is really important - make sure that it works before you start to use your saw. The chain brake operates manually, but also reacts to the saw if it should kick back.

  2. Chain catcher. This small piece of plastic or soft metal sits close to the guide bar and chain under the side plate; if the chain should snap, or derail, the chain catcher takes the energy out of the chain, thus making it safer for you.

  3. On / off switch. Note which way the switch works to turn the saw off - they're not all the same - even the same manufacturer may use a different switch on different models. Stihl are pretty consistent about theirs - you need to move it upwards to switch off (which seems the wrong way round for me), but Husqvarna have changed from moving it the right to moving it downwards (which makes more sense).

  4. Safety throttle. Also known as a "Dead Man's Handle", but in these politically correct days that would be being 'dead-ist', so it's now a 'safety throttle'. Anyway, you need to press the lever in to operate the throttle.

  5. Rear hand guard. Used to protect your right hand, but also useful for stabilising the saw when you start it on the ground.

  6. Anti-vibration (AV) mounts. Fitted to saws to reduce the amount of vibration, which in turn reduces the chance of getting 'whitefinger' (Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome).

  7. Exhaust. Directs fumes away from the operator (unless the wind is blowing in your face).

  8. Scabbard (chain guard / 'condom'). This protects the chain, you and anything near the sharp end from getting damaged.

  9. Safety stickers. All saws must have safety stickers - it's a legal requirement here in the UK and they should warn you about the chance of kickback as well as pointing out that you really should have read the manual and be wearing proper protective equipment - they don't yet make chainsaw protective flip-flops and shorts.

  10. Chain type - bit odd this one, as it's the sharp pointy end, but the type of chain used can make it safer. More, lots more, on this one later.

There are a number of 'optional' features too - decompression switches allow the user to turn the engine over easier when starting (but not as simple as the Stihl EasyStart system - that's so easy that a child of six could start the chainsaw. Hang on a moment, why would you want...). Manual oilers can supply the chain with more oil when cutting hard timber and heated handles will keep the blood flowing in your hands on the coldest of days (and if the blood is flowing that also will tend to reduce the chance of whitefinger).

I'm still waiting for the following optional extras: CD/radio, sunroof and air conditioning on my chainsaw.

Next post... what components make up a chain?

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