Sawyer Safety System

Last year, we provided a Chainsaw Safety Training to the public with Chuck Oslund of Bay College. Chuck is able to teach this course to groups of fifteen or more with a grant through MIOSHA to keep sawyers as safe as possible by implementing a safety system. We will be hosting his course again on Saturday, January 16, at the MUCC office in Lansing, MI from 9am-3pm. This course is free and is highly useful for a majority of our on the ground wildlife habitat projects that involve sawyer techniques.  

Here are some of the key elements from the course that keep volunteers safe and efficient in the field:

  • Safety first!! Do you have required PPE on?

Grayling_State_Forest_HingeCut7.jpgWearing adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) is the first step to ensure safe chainsaw operation. Every sawyer should wear PPE such as a hardhat with a face shield, eye and ear protection, work gloves, Kevlar chaps, and heavy duty leather steel-toe boots. You should always have a first aid kit with you and a means of communication such as a cell phone or walkie-talkie. More importantly, have a spotter; it’s nice to alternate when you get tired. Taking care of your saw in the field is important to your safety too, a dull chain is much harder to operate than a sharp chain; be sure to bring a sharpening kit along with fuel and bar oil.


  • Chainsaw Operation Tips

Start your saw up safely with two points of contact rather than attempting a drop-start. Always use both hands when cutting and limbing, making sure to wrap your thumb around the handle and keep the saw below shoulder height. When you’re cutting branches out of your way from the tree before felling, limb from the top downward. When you’re bucking the trunk after felling, stay on the uphill side of the tree and consider slope, tension and compression, pivot points, and rolling to stay clear of the tree. Always cut the compression side before tension to prevent getting your saw pinched. Also, observe the kerf (the opening or closing angle of the cut you’re making); use wedges to prevent the kerf from closing and to ensure that the tree will be felled the direction you want it to go.


  • Felling Trees: “Hazards lean towards my escape route which hinges on my cutting plan.”

MUCC_Saw_Safety2.jpegThe phrase “Hazards lean towards my escape route which hinges on my cutting plan,” summarizes the process in which to safely fell a tree. Look out for potential hazards such as throwbacks, lodged trees, widow-makers, snags, spring-poles, and terrain. Determine the lean of the tree. Lean has two directions; first is the side lean left or right, and second is forward or back lean. Plan escape routes 45 degrees from back lay to the good side and 45 degrees from the bad side and stand clear at least 15 feet. Always leave a hinge in the tree; this is your only control in felling the tree slowly and precisely where you want it. Have a cutting plan in mind; the most sure felling cut is the open face bore cut.

All of these key elements have been implemented in our own safety system with volunteers on wildlife habitat projects. A few frequent volunteers attended the course and gained important knowledge even after having prior sawyer experience for many years. Using these felling techniques, every tree went where I had planned it to; which is important for my spotter’s safety too! Having a good safety system not only keeps you and your gear safe, it keeps you efficient.

In next week's blog, I will elaborate on more techniques I learn from the course this weekend! Volunteers can put this system into practice at our Hinge cutting event in the Grayling state forest on Saturday, January 30, 2016 at 10am. Using the hinge-cut technique to fell trees in this area will provide cover for snowshoe hares and other game species. This habitat project followed last year’s safety training as well. More than 230 trees were properly hinge-cut by volunteers and DNR staff and the areas were reported as being heavily utilized by hares just three weeks after the project. Visit to RSVP for this event or any other upcoming events near you.


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  • commented 2016-01-13 15:15:02 -0500
    Awesome to know what to expect for the chainsaw safety course and a lot of info I didn’t know! Interesting facts about hinge cutting and what you need as a sawyer! As always, a great read! Excited for the class Saturday!