Chainsaw trousers and gloves – essential safety gear
You have heard me talking about chainsaw safety before, so let’s look at some of the safety gear available. Growing up, I learnt to use it chainsaws wearing shorts, a T-shirt and sometimes maybe a pair of ear protectors. There was simply no such thing as chainsaw safety – the safety aspect was that you just didn’t cut yourself with it.
It was my dad who taught me to use a chainsaw, and he had this saying: he used to say, that you start out life with two bags. The one bag is empty, and the other bag is full of luck. The aim of life was to fill up your empty bag with experience, before your bag of luck ran out.
Although I like this philosophy in many ways, I don’t think it should be applied to using any sort of power tool. I guess I managed to fill my bag of experience before my luck ran out, but I know plenty of people who didn’t. I’ve seen plenty of accidents in the forestry industry where I used to work, and all I can say is that luck only goes so far.
Oh yeah, chainsaws are totally safe and definitely not dangerous...
If you are going to work with a chainsaw, there are some things you absolutely need to have. The first of these is a good pair of chainsaw trousers, sometimes called chainsaw chaps. These can come in various forms, sometimes as full pull over pants you can wear over your clothing, and sometimes more in the form of an apron type garment. What they all have in common, is that they are composed many different layers of materials, which are designed to protect you if you slip with the saw and cut into your leg.
As you can imagine, cutting into your thighs with a chainsaw would be disastrous, and that’s the area that protective pants are there to cover mainly.
Chainsaw trousers (or chaps) are kind of like a bullet-proof vest: you need to remember that they don’t make you invincible, there really are just there to buy you some time. A powerful petrol chainsaw will cut through chainsaw trousers in a few seconds it’s running at full throttle, but what these plans are designed to do is to give you enough time to ease off the throttle, jam on the chain brake, or do whatever else it takes to get yourself to safety. From seeing these pants being cut into a number of times, and I can tell you from personal experience that they are worth their weight in gold.
Basically, they are composed of tough, smooth fibrous material, which the chain simply slides over as it spins. In a way they are like a motorbike helmet, in that they are a one use item – cutting into them makes an absolute mess (there’ll be fibres and shreds of cloth flying everywhere) but they do what they are supposed to do. There are varying grades of protection available in chainsaw trousers, and personally I would recommend that, if in doubt, you go with something which is heavier duty than you need. I don’t think it’s worth compromising when your safety is at stake. I’m not going to post any gory videos and pictures on my site, but I’ll let you use your imagination – chainsaws cause absolutely horrendous injuries.
Wearing chainsaw trousers is something you get used to fairly quickly. The main safety aspect, of protecting you from actual cuts, is only one of the benefits that you will gain. Once I started wearing these kinds of hands, I found that I was getting far less sawdust and chips into my boots and socks, and in winter time they actually keep you warm and dry too!
This guy is wearing apron type chainsaw trousers
A lot of the other guys I used to work with used to say that they felt a lot more comfortable trekking through the bush while wearing chainsaw chaps, because they were also good protection against snake bite. This is a good point, especially if you live in a tropical area, or where snakes are a problem. I haven’t been in the position where I’ve had to rely on it, but I seriously doubt that any snake would get its fangs through a good pair of chainsaw trousers.
The next thing you need is a good pair of chainsaw gloves, nice solid leather ones that not only reduce vibration but also prevent you from getting cuts and splinters. Like the trousers, chainsaw gloves don’t make you invincible – they are there to HELP protect you.
You can expect to pay about $100 from good-quality pair of chainsaw chap, and about $15 for a sturdy pair of chainsaw gloves. You can pay more, or you can pay less, but are make sure to get something which is going to suit your level of experience and exposure.
What about a helmet and ear protection? Check out my next post for info on this gear.