Use of Chainsaws


The Event:

It was just after noon on a Tuesday in early August. Lucky Luke (not his real name), a senior counselor at a day camp was using a chainsaw to prepare logs for a fort that would later be used during their programming. The chainsaw hit a knot in the wood, kicked back, and lacerated the big toe on his left foot. Luke was given first aid by the on-site nurse and transported to an emergency care facility where he received further care and was released. He returned to work the next day.

The Possibilities:

Chainsaws are very dangerous tools – while they can make relatively short work of the arduous task of cutting wood, they can also cause unbelievable damage. Designed to chew through hard material like oak or cottonwood logs, a chainsaw will pass through human flesh as easily as the proverbial hot knife through butter, However it will not cut cleanly like a knife, or an axe, or other sharp object. Instead it will rapidly gouge out chunks, leaving a gaping wound and a pile of irreparable flesh in its wake.

Luke was lucky because when a chainsaw kicks (and they often do when they encounter a change in density in the material they are cutting, be it a knot or a piece of metal or a rock) they normally kick so that the chainsaw bar is swinging in an arc towards the operator’s face or shoulder. Instead of what amounted to first aid for his toe Luke could easily have required massive reconstructive facial surgery, or rebuilding of the collarbone, shoulder, and a mass of gored flesh, or a visit to the undertaker.

The Lessons:

  • Only employees who are over 18 and have been thoroughly trained or are verifiably experienced should handle chainsaws.
  • Competency should be verified, not assumed or accepted by faith.
  • The following safety equipment should always be used when using chainsaws:
    • Ear protection (plugs or earmuffs)
    • Eye protection (safety glasses and/or face shield)
    • Steel toe shoes
    • Long sleeved shirt / long pants (and chaps)
    • Helmet or hard hat
  • Certain behaviors should be mandated when using a chain saw
    • Always have your feet solidly on the ground
    • Always cut material situated at shoulder height or below
    • Always keep the wood being cut elevated so that the tip of the bar will not enter the earth
    • Inspect the material being cut to ensure it contains no rocks, nails, etc.

Please call us at 800-463-8546 to discuss this or any other risk management safety tip, or visit our web site at to learn more about camp risk management issues.


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