Chainsaws – a stitch in time saves… 110 on average.
In recent years there has been a surge in chainsaw ownership in Australia. Electric chainsaws can be purchased for as little as $99 and even more powerful petrol driven models from just $100 more. Because they are cheap and accessible many “handy men” figure it’s cheaper to cut that fallen tree or source their own firewood than hire an expert to do it. And because there is no permit or training required and it looks relatively simple, people think it’s a point-and-shoot process.
Each year almost 1,000 Australians are badly injured while operating a chainsaw. The majority of these incidents happen around the home but there is still an alarmingly high number of work-based incidents as well.
A 1989 study by the Davis-Garvin Insurance Agency, a specialist logging insurance underwriter in the US, provided the amazing statistic that the average chainsaw injury requires 110 stitches, and incurred medical costs of $5,600 on average.
A further comprehensive US study on chainsaw injuries undertaken between 2009 and 2013 reported a total of 115,895 hospital visits stemming from chainsaw use over this period. Most injuries were to males (95%) who were predominantly aged between 30-59 years. The majority of injuries were lacerations (80%) and the most common injuries were to legs and knees (36%) and left hand and wrist (35%).
The most common injuries are:
- Cutting injuries from kick back, pull in or when sharpening the chain
- Crush and stick injuries from cut foliage or falling branches
- Striking injuries, specifically eye injuries, from flying debris and sawdust.
Clearly there is insufficient planning and a lack of suitable controls in place when such accidents occur.
Closer examination of this reveals that there are normally three contributing factors –
- The Design of the Saw
- Safe Operating Procedures
- Personal Protective Equipment
1. SAFE DESIGN
Injury associated with the design of chainsaws has been significantly reduced thanks to the adherence of manufacturers to design standards such as AS2726.1 (2004 Chainsaws – Safety Requirements – Chainsaws for general use).
Design requirements that have improved the safety of chainsaws include such things as an automatic chain brake to prevent kickback, addition of a chain catcher, stricter vibration standards, throttle trigger lock-out and guarding of all rotating parts excluding the chain.
Periodic inspection of your chainsaw against mandatory and recommended safety features is advisable, and something we help our clients with every day.
Below is a drawing identifying the components of a typical chainsaw