Chainsaws have the potential to cause serious injury from cuts and lacerations if employees are not properly trained in their use and there are no safe systems of work. An employee should be physically fit to use a chainsaw and should inform their manager if they are on any prescribed medication, as this may affect their ability to operate a chainsaw safely.
An employer should ensure that a chainsaw is not operated by anyone:
- Who has not undergone a certified course in its safe use.
- Under the age of 16 years.
It is recommended not to let anyone between the ages of 16 and 18 years to use a chainsaw. A suitable risk assessment should be completed for the use of chainsaws.
Users of chainsaws must be adequately trained and be competent enough in their use for the type of task e.g. ground cutting, aerial cutting, live timber cutting, etc. Training must be conducted by a suitably qualified instructor. Any training should detail:
- The risks associated with the chainsaw.
- The risks from the type of work to be conducted.
- The control measures to avoid these risks.
If any work is to be carried out on trees then the user must have been trained for this activity and have the relevant level of competence to do this work.
All chainsaw users should ensure that they attend refresher courses to update their skills and knowledge.
The recommended intervals are:
- Every 2 to 3 years for occasional users.
- Every 5 years for full time users.
Noise and Vibration
Users of chainsaws have a higher risk of being exposed to noise and hand-arm vibration. This could lead to hearing difficulties and vibration related conditions e.g. vibration white finger, hand arm vibration syndrome, etc.
Procedures can be followed to reduce these risks and should include:
- Work rotated to keep chainsaw use to a minimum level.
- Provision of adequate PPE e.g. hearing protection.
- Ensuring users are made aware of the health risks associated with chainsaw usage.
- Users should be asked to report any symptoms which may have a negative impact on their safe use of chainsaws.
- Conducting health surveillance where exposure cannot be reduced to a safe level.
- Buy equipment that reduces the risk of vibration and/or chainsaws that are low noise/low vibration.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
PPE should be provided to employees when using chainsaws to give protection against cuts, noise and flying debris. Any other clothing worn should be close fitting and non-snagging.
PPE should include:
- Safety helmet.
- Hearing protection.
- Eye protection e.g. safety glasses, full face visor.
- Gloves – consideration should be given to protection from the cold or wet and plants or bushes with thorns.
- Leg protection incorporating chain clogging material and having all round protection.
- Upper body protection e.g. chainsaw jackets.
- Safety boots/gaiters.
This should be avoided due to the inherent dangers of chainsaw use. If someone works alone and a serious accident happens then that person could lie for a long time unnoticed with a potentially life threatening injury.
If lone working cannot be avoided then a standard operating procedure should be created for this.
This should include but is not limited to:
- Supplying the employee with a 2-way radio or ensuring that they carry a mobile phone. Ensure that there is adequate mobile phone signal coverage in all areas being worked.
- Mobile phones should be programmed with emergency contact numbers as fast dial.
- Where mobile phones are relied upon, they must be shown to have adequate battery power at the start of the working day.
- Ensuring that the employee is contacted on a regular basis.
- Ensuring, where possible, lone workers can be observed from a distance.
- Checking on the employee if they have not arrived back from the job site after the time allocated for completion.
Employees should carry a first aid kit that is suitable for dealing with any chainsaw related accidents, e.g. cutting or bleeding which should include large wound dressings.
Chainsaw users should have certified training in first aid and hold at least an emergency first aid certificate.
Maintenance/pre use checks
Chainsaws should be serviced and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions by a competent person.
Maintenance is necessary to ensure the safe and continued use of chainsaws.
Chainsaw users should inspect equipment before each use to ensure that all safety features are functioning along with checking for signs of wear and tear. If there is any damage to a moving part or anything that could compromise the health and safety of the user, then this should be reported immediately and the chainsaw taken out of operation until repairs are carried out.
Before starting and using the chainsaw, the user should ensure they are a suitable distance away from other persons. The user should also ensure that others keep clear of their operating area when chainsaws are in use.
This is especially important when carrying out tree work or overhead work.
Petrol should be stored in an approved fuel storage can or container which is suitably labelled as such. Consideration should be given to using one that is specifically for chainsaw refuelling.
It should be kept out of the sun in a cool, well-ventilated area away from open flames and hot surfaces.
The chainsaw should be switched off and be allowed to cool before refuelling. Refuel well away from burning brush piles and away from any flames.
Smoking should not be permitted during refuelling.
The fuel can or container should be returned to storage immediately after refuelling.
Petrol spilled onto clothing should be allowed to dry thoroughly before starting or continuing work.
Working At Height
Working at height with chainsaws is a specialised task. Only people that have been suitably trained to use chainsaws at height should be allowed to do this type of task due to increased risk of injury.
Consideration needs to be given to overhead power lines and cables to ensure that these are not cut during chainsaw operations.
Mobile lifting platforms should be used for any work at height involving chainsaws. Ensure that employees are trained in the safe use of the lifting platform.
Ladders should be avoided, as a user requires the use of both hands when using a chainsaw.
Where harnesses and fall arrest systems are used, operatives must be trained in their use and how to rescue suspended persons. Harnesses and ropes will be subject to the LOLER regulations and will require inspection and examination at least every six months
Questions to Consider
- Are there heavy bandages available in chainsaw first aid kit?
- Can the task be outsourced to an external specialist contractor?
- Are chainsaw tasks are carried out by a minimum of 2 persons?
- Are staff emergency first aid trained to deal with accidents involving chainsaws?
- Is there a register of authorised users?
- Is the insurance company aware of the chainsaw activities carried out?
The above guidance provides an introduction on the main requirements needed to adequately manage this health and safety topic. If you require further guidance, risk assessments or template documentation on this subject please consult your relevant full guidance health and safety website (BIGGA, England Golf, Scottish Golf, Wales Golf). If you do not hold the log in details for this website, for your club, please speak to your golf club management team to identify who the account administrator is and request the details.