HSA Urges Chainsaw Users to Put Safety First During Storm Clean Up

January 23rd 2024

In the aftermath of the recent storms (Isha and Jocelyn), the Health and Safety Authority is urging all workers involved in the clean-up operations, to put health and safety first, especially when operating chainsaws.

Chainsaws are valuable tools for storm clean-up operations, but they can pose serious risks, and prove even deadly, if not used correctly. Approximately 120 serious injuries occur each year as a result of using chainsaws. Up to 4% of farm workplace deaths and an estimated 6.5% of injuries are associated with chainsaw and timber-related work.

“We urge all chainsaw users to follow the Health and Safety Authority’s essential safety guidelines, in order to prevent injuries and ensure a safe and efficient clean-up process",

said Pat Griffin, Senior Inspector with the Health and Safety Authority.

"Do not put yourself at risk. Using a chainsaw without appropriate Training and Personal Protective Equipment is extremely hazardous. All of the evidence shows that self-employed farmers, farm workers and contractors in particular, who only use chainsaws occasionally, who often lack the training, experience and knowledge required for certain tasks, are particularly at risk,”

he added.

Chainsaw injuries involve cuts and lacerations to the face, neck, head, trunk and limbs. The major cause of timber related fatalities is being struck by falling trees or branches while felling trees. Appropriate training in chainsaw use, control of the work site and the wearing of suitable protective clothing to protect against these injuries is essential. If you do not have the competency and training required and do not have the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) for chainsaw work activities, then you should not be operating a chainsaw. You should engage the services of a competent chainsaw operator.

Appropriate safety equipment for chainsaw use includes:

  • A safety helmet (to conform to EN 397)
  • Suitable eye protection (Visor to EN 1731) or safety glasses (to EN 166)
  • Ear defenders (to EN 352).
  • Chainsaw gloves with protective pad on the back of the left hand
  • Leg protection incorporating clogging material (EN 381-7).
  • Safety boots with steel toecaps with good grip (EN 381/345).
  • Non-snag close-fitting outer clothing.
  • Chainsaw trousers (EN 381-5).

“While the appropriate personal protective equipment is vital, it cannot provide 100% protection against cutting by a hand-held chainsaw. Therefore, you must always have the proper training and competence when using a chainsaw, never work on your own with a chainsaw, and always have a first aid kit readily available, including large wound dressings,” said Mr. Griffin.

Important precautions to take when using chainsaws include:

  • Make sure you have the proper training and competence to use a chainsaw
  • Never work on your own with a chainsaw
  • Make sure the chainsaw is suitable for the work involved and properly maintained
  • Ensure that bystanders are at a safe distance from cutting activities
  • Wear suitable head and face protection
  • Wear protective clothing
  • Do not walk or work under unstable windblown trees
  • Tell someone your estimate time of return

Beware of Live Cables

Trees can also bring down utility lines (electric or telephone), which creates an additional hazard. You have to assume that any cable taken down by a fallen tree or branch is live (energised). If a fallen tree or branch has damaged utility lines, do not approach or inspect the lines yourself. Keep at least 3 metres away and contact the ESB on 1800 372 999.

Full details on the safe use of chainsaws can found at here.

HSA Chainsaw Clearance of Windblow Guidance Document is available here.