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Ohio State University Extension


Chain Saw Safety

Agricultural Tailgate Safety Training for Operators and Supervisors
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Agricultural Safety and Health Program

Objective: To know what safety precautions to take when working with a chain saw, and to practice proper maintain of the chain saw.

Trainer’s Note

Ask a seasoned employee who has used a chain saw to demonstrate the proper procedure. Allow employees to practice the correct method of using a chain saw. Stress the use of protective clothing and equipment. Review the true or false quiz.


Operator’s Manual

Black and white chain saw image

Keep the operator’s manual with the chain saw. If the manual is missing, contact the manufacturer for a replacement. Periodically review the manual for safe operating procedures.

Personal Protective Equipment

Use the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) for the job. Use the following as a guide:

  • Clothing should fit well and be free of dangling or ragged edges which can become tangled in the saw. The use of nylon mesh protective leg chaps and/or knee pads can provide increased protection for the legs.
  • A hard hat protects the head from falling limbs or branches. A properly fitted hat is cool, comfortable, and provides protection from head injury.
  • A full-face shield or safety goggles/glasses that have side shields prevent injury from flying wood chips, twigs, and sawdust.
  • Protect ears from the high level of noise produced by the saw.
  • Boots or work shoes with high tops protect ankles in the event of incidental contact with a moving saw blade. Steel-toed boots will help protect the feet from falling limbs or logs.
  • Lightweight leather gloves protect hands from cuts, splinters, and abrasion.

Preventive Maintenance

Keep saw in good repair. Consult the operator’s manual and check for needed maintenance before each use. The operator’s manual can be the best source of information for this procedure.

Sharpen the saw if:

  • the chain tends to “walk” sideways while cutting.
  • the cut shows fine powder instead of chips.
  • it is necessary to press hard to cut.
  • the operator smells burnt wood.

Good cutting action and a long chain life increase with correct chain tension. If too loose, a chain will derail; if too tight, a chain will bind.

Proper lubrication prolongs the life of the saw and increases safety.

Follow these precautions when fueling and starting the chain saw engine:

  • Only refuel the engine when it is cool.
  • Never smoke when working with a power saw.
  • Start by putting one foot on the bracket to the rear of the saw.
  • Grip the top handle of the saw firmly with one hand and use the other to pull the starting rope. Start the saw on the ground. Never drop start the saw.

Follow these general precautions when operating a chain saw:

  • Operate the saw only on stable ground or footing, to avoid potential slips and falls.
  • Do not operate the saw overhead.
  • Do not cut using the tip of the saw. Contact with the bar end can cause the saw to kick back unexpectedly and strike the operator.
  • Do not disable safety features such as anti-kick-back bars and bar-tip shields.
  • Avoid chain contact with the ground or with other hard objects such as rocks, metal fencing, or nails.
  • Do not operate the saw when fatigued or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Transport a power chain saw in a chain guard or a carrying case. Do not carry the saw in the passenger area of a vehicle. Brace the saw so that it cannot tip. When storing the saw, drain the fuel tank in a safe area, and run the engine at the idle until it stops. Remove the chain and store in oil. Disconnect the spark plug to avoid an unintentional start. Keep out of the reach of children.

Review the Following Points

  • Wear close fitting clothing.
  • Use a face shields or safety goggles, ear protection, over-the-ankle boots, and gloves.
  • Keep equipment in good repair and make adjustments as needed.
  • Follow recommendations for refueling and safely starting saws.

About These Modules

The Ag Tailgate Training Series was developed by members of the Agricultural Safety and Health Program in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering. Revised by Dee Jepsen, State Agricultural Safety Leader, with editing assistance by Lisa Pfeifer and Cody McClain.

True or False Answer Key

  1. T
  2. T
  3. F
  4. T
  5. T



Quiz: Chain Saw Safety



True or False?    

1. Transport a power chain saw in a chain guard or a carrying case.  T F
2. Start a chain saw by putting one foot on the rear of the saw.  T F
3. Refuel the engine as soon as it runs out of gas.  T F
4. Correct chain tension results in good cutting action and a long chain life. T F
5. A hard hat will protect the head from falling limbs or branches.     T F








Originally posted May 16, 2019.