Chainsaws are regularly used at many farms in the South West. Use of a chainsaw is an extremely high risk operation and it is crucial that safe systems of work are implemented.
Whether your farm has forestry operations or you use a chainsaw for thinning coppices or similar work, make absolutely sure that adequate training and correct personal protective equipment (PPE) is provided to all operators.
Operators should have obtained the relevant certificate of competence unless they are undergoing training or are adequately supervised. They must be made fully aware of the risks involved, a proper communication strategy must be set up and first aid equipment must be available on the worksite at all times.
You should always carry out a risk assessment before using a chainsaw and/or undertaking tree work. Consider such issues as the suitability of the equipment to be used, the proximity to overhead power lines, public rights of way, buildings and machinery, routes of escape in case of an accident, and the projected path of any falling timber.
Before you operate a chainsaw, one important thing to fully consider is your location.
Take into account the proximity of the worksite to roads, footpaths, public access, buildings, machinery, livestock and any other hazards you may identify. Erect barriers or warning signs or close roads if necessary.
If you are felling a tree, ensure that you know the direction that it will fall and ensure that no-one is within two tree lengths of the tree being felled. Ensure that the chainsaw operator has a secure foothold, as clear a site as possible and an escape route. First aid arrangements should also be made at the worksite. Avoid working alone with a chainsaw but, if you must, ensure you have a method of raising the alarm if necessary such as a whistle or automatic signalling device.
Of course, you must be particularly careful when working near overhead power lines (OHPLs). You must agree with your distribution network operator (DNO) when power is to be turned off and re-energised. Make sure that any trees being felled must be at least two tree lengths from any OHPL.
In order to use a chainsaw safely, operators should be reasonably fit, both physically and mentally. Certain conditions may inhibit a person’s ability to use a chainsaw, such as impaired mobility or alertness, low levels of physical strength, poor vision (unless it can be corrected by glasses or contact lenses), problems with manual dexterity or grip strength, or poor balance. Some medications may also impair an operator’s abilities. It is important that you have processes in place to establish whether any such inhibitions or impairments apply to operators as part of your risk assessment.
To avoid damage that could lead to injury, it is essential that chainsaws are properly maintained and correctly stored. Before using a chainsaw, ensure that the on/off switch is clearly marked, that the side plate, front and rear hand guards are correctly fitted, and are in good order, and that there is no damage to the chain, guide bar, sprockets and chain catcher. Ensure that a chain with low kickback characteristics is used, that it is properly sharpened, tensioned and lubricated, the chain brake is properly adjusted and working and that the silencer and anti-vibration mounts are in good working order.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
No protective equipment can ensure complete protection against the risk of accidental cutting by a hand-held chainsaw or against the high levels of noise and hand-arm vibration produced as part of their normal operation, but PPE is an essential element of risk reduction. Ensure that users are trained in the use of PPE and that it is properly maintained, available at all times and that it fits the user properly. PPE should provide a consistent level of protection against chainsaw cut-through. All other clothing worn should be close fitting and non-sagging. Safety helmets, hearing protection, eye protection, upper body protection, chainsaw gloves, leg protection and chainsaw boots are all subject to safety standards and only PPE that meets those standards should be used.
Working off the ground
Never allow chainsaws to be used off the ground unless the operator has received adequate training in safe working techniques. When working at height, branches to be removed must never be accessed by ladders, grain buckets or by standing on other machines. Instead, use a purpose-built platform such as a mobile elevating work platform (MEWP) with secure guard rails and toe boards, ensuring that operators have received adequate training in the use of the platform. No-one should use a chainsaw while standing in a tree unless they have received training to do so as this is a specialist skill.
Never allow a chainsaw to be used from a ladder. A chainsaw requires use of both hands to be operated safely and working from a ladder requires one hand to maintain a steady position. Operating a chainsaw from a rope and harness is a specialist skill and should only be attempted by people who have obtained the relevant qualifications.