Not too many years ago, chainsaws represented a significant safety risk to the user. Even when used by sensible adults there were many design flaws that posed potential serious injury risks.
Recent inventions, however, have dramatically improved the design of these handy tools, making them much safer and easier to use. The majority of these new safety features, which many are now required by law in certain jurisdictions, are centered on the “kickback” problem associated with the old chain saw models, with the goal of either eliminating or vastly reducing the risk of serious injury.
New Chainsaw Safety Features
In recent years, chainsaw manufacturers have taken a number of steps to ensure the chains on their tools are (a) correctly matched to the guide bar and saw, and (b) properly sharpened prior to leaving the factory. One of the major sharpening steps they have taken is the widening of the depth gauge, the smaller steel protuberance found in front of each cutting tooth. By increasing the height of the depth gauge, they have made certain that the first cut does not plunge too deeply into the wood, which is one of the primary causes of dangerous chain saw kickback.
In many of the smaller chain saws sold today—saws that are mostly used for domestic purposes—manufacturers are now including a metal or plastic tip protector. This seemingly simple addition drastically trimmed the number of chainsaw accidents worldwide, as it prevents users from cutting with the tip of the saw. Cutting with the tip of the saw, where the chain is moving in a downward direction, can cause the saw to kick back in an upwards motion, where it may come into contact with the user’s body and/or face.
One of the most noteworthy safety benefits of the new-model chainsaws is the addition of a chain brake. Chain brakes are designed to stop the chainsaw cutting chain completely by activating a metal brake band around the driven clutch drum.
The force for these potentially life-saving chain brakes is generated by a powerful metal spring, allowing the user to safely start the electric chainsaw, move between cuts and change positions with the chain in a stopped position. Without the chain brake, all of these scenarios could result in unrestrained chain movement—a major problem of older chainsaws, known to cause a number of major injuries every year. The chain brake is also advantageous in that it will immediately activate in the event of a kickback, preventing the user from being struck with a moving chain.
Chain Catcher and Safety Throttle
Last but not least are the chain catcher and safety throttle, both of which now come standard on most of today’s modern chainsaws. The chain catcher function can dramatically diminish the threat of injury, as it keeps the chain from being thrown backwards towards the user should the chain break or become derailed. The safety throttle, located under the rear handle of the saw, also adds a degree of safety to the newer chainsaws. Unless the operator manually engages the lockout switch on the unit, the safety throttle will remain in the idle position, preventing the chain from being driven.
Improvements in chain and bar design, along with chain brakes and other well-thought-out safety features, have radically reduced the risk of serious injury, making the newer model chainsaws safer and much more accessible to the average operator. When used with the proper safety and personal protection equipment, they can be a great little tool to help trim and maintain any trees or hedges around the perimeter of your garden.
Author Bio: Sean Fullerton is a freelance writer on behalf of Arco & Expert Tools & Garage Equipment, Ireland’s largest independent retailer of Draper tools, camping equipment and other general maintenance equipment.