Over 36,000 people are injured each year when using a chainsaw, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many of these injuries are attributed to a phenomenon known as "kickback." Whether you're using a gas or electric chainsaw, you should take precautions to protect yourself from kickback. What is kickback exactly, and how do you prevent it?
What Is Kickback?
Chainsaw kickback is a phenomenon in which the guide bar rapidly "clicks back" toward your body. It occurs when the nose or tip of the guide bar makes unintended contact with a surface, or when the chain gets stuck in the object that it's cutting. This contact causes the chain to stop abruptly. The force generated by the rotating chain can lead to the chainsaw being thrown back.
Use a Sharp Chain
You can prevent kickback by using a sharp chain. Chainsaw chains don't last forever. Over time, they will become duller. A dull chain, of course, won't be able to cut cleanly through objects. It may get stuck in an object, resulting in kickback. If your chainsaw has a dull chain, you should replace it before using it again.
Follow the Proper Cutting Technique
Following the proper cutting technique will minimize the risk of kickback. The three-point control method, for instance, is a safe and effective way to use a chainsaw. Keep both of your hands firmly gripping the chainsaw, with your thumb wrapped around the handle. With three points of contact, you'll have more control over the chainsaw.
Check the Brake
Always check the brake before using a chainsaw. The brake is a feature that's designed to stop the chainsaw. If the chainsaw begins to sling back toward your back, you can activate the brake. Doing so should stop the chainsaw so that it doesn't strike your body.
Avoid Touching the Tip Against Objects
Another way to prevent kickback is to avoid touching the tip of the chainsaw against objects. This can cause rotational kickback. If the tip touches the object that you are cutting, the chainsaw will kick back toward your body.
Consider a Low-Kickback Chain
There are some chainsaw chains that are designed specifically to protect against kickback. Known as "low-kickback chains," they feature certain design modifications that protect against kickback. They won't eliminate the risk of kickback altogether. Nonetheless, using a low-kickback chain will lower your risk of kickback-related injury.