The helmet offers some protection for the user’s head against impact by the cutter bar of the chainsaw should a ‘kickback’ occur. Kickback is when the running chainsaw jumps up unexpectedly out of the cut, thus endangering the saw operator. Helmet protection can only be successful if the chain brake has been operated to stop the saw chain, since a chain running at full speed can easily cut into the helmet. The helmet, and its eye protection guard, also protect against impacts from small falling or flying objects, such as dead twigs and branches from a tree being felled.
Exposure to the sun causes the plastic of the helmet to weaken over time, so it is recommended that a helmet is replaced every 3–5 years. A helmet normally has a symbol inside that shows when it was made. Many helmets also now have a sticker on the outside that fades with exposure to light. When the sticker has faded the helmet should be replaced. Another way of determining if a helmet needs to be changed is to press the two sides of the helmet towards each other. If a cracking noise is heard, the helmet must be replaced.
Visor or goggles
The relatively flimsy mesh visor, with imperfect coverage of the face, is considered acceptable because the chips produced by well-maintained chainsaws are of relatively uniform size and speed. Unlike other woodworking tools, a chainsaw with a sharp chain produces little or no sawdust, only chips (that are too large to fit through the visor’s mesh).
Some chainsaw users prefer conventional safety glasses or goggles. The choice may depend on the environment. The visor provides better ventilation for hard work in hot weather. Often, both safety goggles and a visor are employed for superior protection.
Chainsaw safety mitt
A leather mitt for the operator’s left hand that is fitted to (but is free to rotate on) the front bar of the chainsaw.
The safety mitt ensures that if kickback occurs the operator’s hand remains on the bar of the chainsaw. This means that the kickback is more easily controlled and the chain brake is more easily engaged. The safety mitt also protects the operator’s left hand in the same way as chainsaw safety gloves. The protection on the left hand mitt protects when the chain derails and jumps over the front handle.
Most safety mitts have a protection class 0 (up to 16 m/s chain speed, see below). There are mitts available covering class 1 (20 m/s chain speed).
Ear defenders and ear plugs attenuate noise to levels that cause little or no damage to the user’s hearing. Non-electric chainsaws are very loud, typically 115 dB, above the recommended exposure limit of 85 dB from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
In the EU, ear defenders must comply with EN352-1.
Special fabrics have been developed for chainsaw clothing, and this development is still ongoing. Conventional fabric is useless as protection against a running chainsaw, as the fabric is cut through immediately.
There is a real struggle and conflict between making a fabric proof against more violent impact, and making it light, flexible and comfortable enough for the user. Clothes which make the user too hot, or which prevent the user moving easily, are a safety problem in themselves. A worker unable to move easily and/or suffering from being too hot is not safe. Extra fabric layers are added to clothing to improve cut resistance, but clothes which cannot be cut at all by a powerful saw are impractical, even with modern fibres. Additionally saw and chain technology seems to be outstripping fabric technology. It is almost impossible to protect against high power saws employing aggressive cutting chains.
A classification scheme has been developed in the EU to rate trousers, and fabric in general, for protection against cutting.