Chainsaw Safety...

There's no escaping the fact that wands of doom chainsaws are potentially lethal, but sometimes it's not the chainsaw per se that's your biggest danger. So how do you know what hazards there are, and just how risky are they?

Risk assessments are often thought to be a complete chore, but once you know how to set about doing a risk assessment - whether you write everything down, or just go through the points in your mind, it's pretty quick and a few minutes thought will make everything much safer for you.

The first step in completing a risk assessment is to try and work out what the dangers (or hazards) are. You can then calculate how dangerous they are by working out a risk rating and then attempting to reduce this rating by implementing control measures - essentially doing something that will reduce the risk to you and those around you.

So, we have 3 steps to a risk assessment:

  1. Identify the hazards.

  2. Calculate the risk.

  3. Implement control measures.

Identifying hazards can be quite tricky - ask a group of people about the hazards they face and you're likely to come up with the obvious 3 or 4 hazards... and then it goes quiet; to help you with this, try to work out what hazards there are that relate to the...

  • Site: where you will be working. This could include the terrain, ground conditions, trip hazards, weather, utility lines and so on.

  • Task: what is that you are doing? Could you cut yourself whilst maintaining the saw, get grease and dirt in your eyes from improper use of the airline? What about lifting heavy timbers?

  • Machine: what equipment will you be using? There are hazards with the saw, airlines, winches or any other tools that you're likely to use.

There's no need to list all the really obvious stuff - we all know you shouldn't drink petrol (although I have drunk some Hungarian stuff that would boost the octane rating of any fuel).

Generally, you need to be thinking about hazards that pose a threat to not just yourself, but to others around you.

You can calculate the risk, and many firms operate a 'traffic light' system where a red indicator would depict a high risk, amber a medium risk and green a low risk. We'll take a look at calculating risk in a later post.

Once you know the hazards, you can work out how to minimise them - putting out signs, or setting up an exclusion zone is a classic instance of protecting third-parties from you doing something daft with your chainsaw (or to stop those members of the public who just have to stand next to you to see what you're doing.

If there's a team of you going out with a saw then complete the risk assessment together and make sure that everyone in the team knows what the risks are and how to avoid them.

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