PPE is considered to be extremely useful in reducing the severity of injuries caused by chainsaw operations. It can help operators protect themselves from sudden dangers that they can’t escape otherwise. ANSI and ASTM are the key organizations in the United States that set the standards for chainsaw protective gear such as safety helmets and protective eyewear. We have provided below a detailed overview of the role of PPE in preventing chainsaw injuries.
PPE Role in Preventing Chainsaw Injuries
PPE Helps in Reducing the Severity of Injuries
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) can be extremely helpful in preventing or reducing the severity of injuries caused by chainsaws. According to the available statistics, using both hands while operating a chainsaw and wearing chainsaw pants or chaps are likely to minimize chainsaw injuries by 75% or higher.
- As per the statistics from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), around 36% of chainsaw wounds impact the knees and legs. Additionally, over 25% of chainsaw injuries in the United States annually are a consequence of chainsaw ‘kickbacks.’ These kickbacks can result in wounds to the face, shoulder, neck, or even the hand. As per experts, wearing proper and recommended protective gear while using chainsaws can help avert these types of casualties.
- Further, using brightly colored PPE can help ensure visibility to others who may be in the vicinity of the cutting area, especially when the worksite is exposed to moving traffic. Also, such high-visibility vests should be worn when working in the woods during the hunting season. Visibility and awareness of the surroundings can help reduce the risk of accidents to the operator himself and the surrounding people.
- As per data from the Epidemiology of Chain Saw Related Injuries, 29% of the chainsaw injuries are caused in the hand and finger area, 11% are caused in the upper leg, 18% in the knee area, and 12.5% in the lower leg or ankle area. PPE helps protect all these body areas, thereby reducing the chances and severity of injuries caused by chainsaws.
- As per the recommendations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), specific PPE gear must be used as it helps to minimize possible health hazards to the chainsaw operator. These include hearing protection, head protection equipment, protection for the eyes and face, foot protection, leg protection, and hand protection equipment. Hence, usage of PPE helps prevent injuries to the key external parts of the body.
- In the United States, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) sets the standards for chainsaw protective gear such as safety helmets and protective eyewear. ASTM is another organization with standards for chain saw protective gear. Hence, since these protective gear are designed in adherence to the set safety guidelines, they are extremely useful in reducing the fatalities caused by chainsaw operations.
Various Types of PPE To Prevent Chainsaw Injuries
- As stated above, OSHA requires that chainsaw operators wear head protection, eye protection, hearing protection, hand protection, chainsaw chaps or pants, and suitable footwear. All PPE must be examined before each use to confirm that they are in order.
- A safety helmet or hard hat is the main type of head protection that is worn by chainsaw users. The primary purpose of this kind of head protection is to protect the head of the chainsaw operator from the impact of falling branches. A safety helmet also helps in protecting the brain against injuries such as concussions. Helmets built with face shields can further help prevent cuts and scrapes from branches, flying wood chips, and sawdust. Other helmets can also include built-in ear muffs for hearing protection.
- Protective eyewear secures chainsaw operators from the likelihood of vision loss. The various options for protective eyewear include face shields, safety glasses, goggles, and coverall eyewear. Safety glasses with side shields or wraparounds and additional features like scratch resistance (Starlite Model) or UVA/UVB protection (Scorpion-Mag model) provide added protection.
- Earplugs and Earmuffs are the two most common types of hearing protection that is used to block chainsaw noise and reduce noise exposure to 90 decibels or less. Earmuffs are best suited to protect from excessive noise. Also, protective earmuffs with PVC cushions provide extra comfort to the saw operators. For an additional layer of protection, saw operators can consider wearing both earplugs and earmuffs.
- Gloves are the most commonly used personal protective equipment (PPE) used for hand protection. They help dampen the vibration from the saw and protect operators from minor cuts and getting exposed to oils and fuels.
- Similarly, logging boots are the most commonly used personal protective equipment for protecting the feet against chainsaw cuts and avoid foot injuries. The operators should use the boots that have specifically been designed to protect from chainsaw injuries. These boots can also assist in preventing impact injuries and protect against sharp objects.
- PPE for legs helps protect them from getting cuts and stitches. Chainsaw chaps or pants are the primary protective equipment used for leg protection. They are worn over the pants to protect the legs from being cut. If the legs of an operator are accidentally struck by the chain saw’s chain and bar, the chaps stop the chain saw by jamming the flywheel. This means that the chainsaw won’t cut through to the leg and while the operator may get bruised, he is unlikely to get stitches. There are two different types of chain saw chaps, namely, apron chaps and full-wrap chaps. Apron chaps only protect the front of the upper leg, while full-wrap chaps wrap around the lower leg to protect the rear calf region as well.
Best Practices For Choosing PPE To Avoid Chainsaw Injuries
- While selecting the head protective gear, a safety helmet should have the manufacturer’s name or identification, the date of manufacture, the type and class of helmet, the head size, and ‘ANSI Z89.1‘ stamped on the inside. The ANSI number means that the helmet has met all the safety requirements provided by the American National Standards Institute.
- Also, protective hard hats must be examined for dents, penetrations, plastic chip flakes, discolorations, or a chalky appearance, and should be immediately replaced if their liner is worn or broken. Further, as a best practice, hard hats should be replaced every three to five years or at the manufacturer’s recommendation.
- The best practice while selecting eye protection is to choose one that resists fogging and has UV protection. Also, the main US safety standard for protective eyewear is ANSI Z87.1+. This should be stamped on all approved eyewear.
- While selecting hearing protectors, chainsaw operators must choose ones that provide adequate but not excessive protection as it is important to hear other people, trees cracking, other warning signals, and important machine sounds while operating a chainsaw. Also, only hearing protectors with a noise reduction rating (NRR) should be used. A saw operator should use an NRR of 25 DB to reduce the noise below 85 DB.
- In the case of footwear, saw operators should prefer composite or steel toe and a nonslip sole. Footwear with a steel anti-penetration plate in the outsole can help provide added protection against sharp objects. Also, tree climbers should prefer lighter footwear and make sure to break into new boots before working in them.
- While selecting leg protection gear, saw operators must ensure that their chaps fit properly and should also make sure that the bottom of their chosen chaps come down to two inches below the top of their work boots. Also, chaps or pants should be immediately replaced in case of a cut because even a tiny cut will shift the plastic fiber layers, leaving them ineffective.
- Dirty chaps and pants aren’t effective when they are dirty as the layers stick together and don’t pull out as they should. Hence, they should be washed regularly. Additionally, saw operators should make sure that their chaps meet international safety standards. For example, Oregon’s apron and full-wrap chainsaw chaps conform to ASTM F1897-08 and are UL classified.