Whether you’re felling trees or carving ice structures, chainsaws can make light work of heavy-duty cutting. It’s important to know who can use a chainsaw; the type of saw that’s best suited to your work; and how to start and operate one safely. Here we address these questions and more.
Yes! Anyone can operate this equipment in Australia. Generally a licence is not required, but in some industries – like forestry – certificated training is compulsory before use.
Regardless of whether certification is required, in all industries, employers have a duty of care to ensure that anyone operating a chainsaws is properly trained to do so. Chainsaw awareness courses can help people to develop these skills – training is also available as a unit of competency.
Chainsaws vary according to size, power source, reliability and output, the type of chain, length of blade and the amount of mobility they offer. The main types of chainsaws available in Australia are:
Petrol: Petrol (or 2-stroke) chainsaws are the most powerful and versatile saw, running on a mixture of petrol and oil. Suitable for heavy-duty cutting jobs, petrol powered saws are also noisier and heavier, and create more kickback on start up.
Electric: Electric saws do not emit fumes and are generally lighter and quieter than petrol ones. They don’t require a fuel tank to be refilled, or a battery to be recharged, which allows work to continue uninterrupted. Moderately powerful, these chainsaws are ideal for cutting small and medium-sized trees and branches. The need for a cable connection to a power source can limit the range of movement, and users must also take care not to cut through the power cord.
Battery powered: Like electric chainsaws, rechargeable battery powered saws are a quieter option than their petrol counterparts. Although they are less powerful than petrol and electric saws, they are portable, and well suited to pruning, trimming and cutting small trees. The battery life can be limiting on this type of saw without a spare battery on hand.
Pole saws: as the name suggests these are chainsaws attached to poles for cutting higher branches.
Safety is paramount when operating chainsaws. To work safely, ensure that you understand the risks of using this type of equipment and complete adequate hazard assessments prior to use.
Here are some examples of hazards you may encounter when using chainsaws.
Chainsaws are complex to use, particularly without the right training and experience. In fact, a lack of training is one of the primary factors in workplace fatalities and injuries when using this type of equipment. To minimise risk, always refer to the OEM user instructions and ensure that you have adequate knowledge and skills before use.
Entanglement can easily happen whilst working near the moving parts of machines like chainsaws – avoid loose-fitting clothing to reduce this risk. Appropriate PPE (like steel cap boots with cut protection; eye protection and leather gloves with ballistic nylon reinforcement on the back) can also help to reduce the likelihood and severity of injury.
Correct handling technique is vital for the safe operation of chainsaws – always follow the manufacturers guide on safe grips and stances. When using any construction equipment, operators should also limit use to tools that match their experience and capability. If you are new to using chainsaws, begin using saws with shorter blades while you build skills and experience.
The condition of equipment like chainsaws plays an important part in safe operation. Always follow proper sharpening and cleaning procedures in between uses, as this will help to keep your chainsaw safe, improve performance and extend the life of this asset.
It is important to note that every piece of equipment is different. If you have queries or concerns always refer to the OEM instructions or the place of hire or purchase.
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