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Do you use a chainsaw? If so, chainsaw safety should be top-of-mind as you make the wood chips fly and the firewood stack grow.

Chainsaws are marvelous tools. They allow us to finish jobs in just minutes that would otherwise require hours with an ax or handsaw. But it’s that same wonderful efficiency that can turn chainsaws into deadly, dangerous weapons. After all, that high-powered saw that will slice and dice a tree trunk in minutes could make mincemeat of your leg (or other bodily part) in a split second.

And when you’re using a chainsaw, that’s all it takes — a split second. Just a split second of carelessness, just a momentary lapse in judgment, or just one attempt to use a saw that’s not well maintained can cause a lifetime of regret, or even end a life.

Don’t let fear of an accident deter you from using a chainsaw. But do use that fear to motivate you into using your chainsaw safely.

Covering all of the tips and techniques for using a chainsaw safely and maintaining it in safe working order is far beyond the scope of a single article, of course. But here are three simple things you can do to make the use of your chainsaw a much safer proposition:

1) Use chainsaw safety equipment. No matter how well maintained your saw, and no matter how knowledgeable you are in all the proper techniques for using your saw, an accident could still occur.

It’s similar to driving a car, where even the most skilled and alert of drivers zipping along in the safest and most well maintained of cars are still at risk of having an accident. But the driver — if he or she is smart — is prepared for that possibility by wearing a safety belt and choosing a car equipped with safety devices such as air bags and anti-lock brakes.

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In much the same way, you can prepare for a worst-case scenario while using your chainsaw by wearing chainsaw safety equipment. Gear such as helmets with face shields, gloves and steel-toed boots can significantly reduce the risk of injury.

And chainsaw chaps are among the most important pieces of chainsaw safety equipment. Chainsaw chaps can protect you from the most common of chainsaw accidents — cuts to the lower body. In fact, the most effective chainsaw chaps are designed to stop a chainsaw turning at 2,750 feet per minute without even penetrating the inner layer of the chaps. That’s impressive protection! A chainsaw turning at 2,750 feet per minute would slice through your blue jeans like gossamer silk.

2) Keep your saw sharp. Just as the most dangerous knife is a dull knife, a dull chainsaw chain is among the most dangerous of tools best on the market. A dull chain greatly increases the risk of that most dangerous chainsaw mishap, the kickback. And when a kickback does occur, it’s likely to happen with much greater violence when a dull chain is involved.

Whether you sharpen your chains yourself with simple hand files (which you can do effectively if you utilize proper techniques), or take them to a professional for sharpening, you’ll greatly reduce the risk of an accident by keeping them sharp.

3) Be sure your chainsaw is suited for the job. You don’t really need a mega-horsepower chainsaw with a 3-foot bar to cut down saplings or to prune twigs. But you also wouldn’t be wise to attack a 3-foot diameter tree trunk with a 10-inch bar chainsaw.

When you’re evaluating whether your chainsaw is up to the job at hand, use the manufacturer’s recommendations. If your saw isn’t quite suited for the job, then buy or rent one that is.

And if you’re a homeowner who uses a chainsaw primarily for some light duty pruning or cleanup, consider a saw like the Black & Decker Alligator Lopper. It’s not a traditional chainsaw design; you use it just like a pair of lopping shears. But it will handle cuts of up to 4 inches in diameter with ease, and is one of the safest chainsaw designs on the market.

So by just simply choosing your chainsaw wisely, you can greatly reduce the risk of using a chainsaw.

By being aware of chainsaw safety tips and techniques, you’ll be able to enjoy the fruits of your chainsaw labor in good health. After all, warming your tootsies with that nice cozy fire wouldn’t be quite as pleasant if you lost a body part in the cutting of that firewood!

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