Holding on the Right Way
Fall 2013

Would you operate a gas-powered hand tool without holding on to the handles?

Most motorized equipment comes with handles for the operator, and it is important to keep a hold of those handles when operating any machine, like a car, motorbike or chain saw. A wise person once told me that chain saws are designed so your right hand has a job and your left hand has a job.

A chain saw has two handles and they are designed to be held onto at all times. In fact your right hand has a specific and important job and your left hand has a specific job also. Your right hand holds onto the rear handle and operates the throttle interlock and trigger, your left hand holds on to the top handle of the saw. The saw is designed so that the bar or blade is on the right side of the saw. This way it keeps the blade away from your body (refer to image 1). This is why it is less safe to hold the saw in a left handed manner, as doing this puts the blade much closer to your body and significantly increases the risk of personal injury from a cut. To hold a chain saw correctly, your left hand holds on to the top handle and right hand on the rear. Imagine trying to operate your gas pedal with your left foot and the brake with your right…if attempted it would surely lead to an accident.

Always keep a firm grip of your chain saw with your fingers fully encircling the handles (refer to image 2). So often I see operators slide their left thumb up along the top handle. Studies have shown that gripping in this way provides 50% less grip than with the thumb encircling. I think it is important to keep a good grip on a chain saw, don’t you? If your hands are not on the handles with a good grip and your thumbs fully encircling the handle, your hand could slip off very easily. It is also a human reaction that when the saw drops or slips, that you will reach quickly to grab it. If this happens while you are cutting, a serious accident could result. A chain saw chain spins around the bar at several thousands of feet per minute and each cutter is capable of cutting and chiseling whatever is in their path. The reaction forces and inertia generated from this rotation are great, and as such, the saw needs to be held with a firm grasp.

Chain saws have many design features - most of which are there to help protect you the operator and improve your safety. The modern chain saw has the top handle angled to reduce wrist fatigue. More recent innovations include making the handles thicker and contoured to fill your hand better. All of this in the name of ergonomics. However, the common design feature since the beginning was to keep the saw blade away from your body by placing the bar on the far right side of the saw. Also, by holding onto the top handle with your left hand and onto the rear handle with your right hand (refer to image 3). This puts you in the safest position possible when operating one of the most powerful gas-powered hand saws ever made. Remember that a chain saw bar or blade has no protective barriers or guards, only a chain brake, which also must be used wisely as I explained in a previous issue of ‘STIHL PROLINE’.

I want to encourage you to hold onto your chain saws firmly at all times by remembering to do these things:

  • Use two hands at all times - remember your right hand has a job and your left hand has a job
  • Keep your left hand on the top handle and your right hand on the rear
  • Always fully encircle your thumbs to give yourself a good grip

One thing I can guarantee…that it is impossible to cut your hands when they are holding on to the saw handles the right way.

by Dwayne Neustaeter
Arboriculture Canada Training and Education Ltd. www.arborcanada.com