Chainsaws are dangerous tools, perhaps the most dangerous available on the open market. When used at height, for tree surgery and arboriculture for instance, the potential for harm becomes even greater. It’s obvious, then, that effective, reliable protective equipment is absolutely essential for chainsaw work. We’ve previously covered Chainsaw Protective Fabric and Clothing, as well as Chainsaw Protective Footwear from HAIX, and now here we’ll discuss the importance of protective headwear when operating a chainsaw.
The protective role that chainsaw PPE headwear plays can be easily overlooked, but it is a crucial piece of kit, performing a number of different roles. Specialist forestry helmets are all-in-one, with attached visors and ear defenders, too, meaning they provide excellent all-round protection.
Firstly, the helmet offers protection to the head against kickback. This is when the chain catches in some way, causing the saw to suddenly move up and back towards the operator. Helmets with a cut bar give some protection – a chain running at full speed can still easily cut into the helmet, but with the chain brake engaged the helmet shields the operator from potentially serious injury.
Additionally, chainsaw headwear provides great protection for the eyes and face. The attached protective face visor guards against chips flying at high-speed towards the face. Long term damage, or even loss of vision can result from material, often shrapnel sized, rebounding back into your face or eyes. This is a common cause of injury, but even a relatively thin mesh guard does the job, since chainsaws tend to produce little or no sawdust, just wood chips that are too large to fit through the visor’s mesh.
For all the danger that the chainsaw itself poses, one of the forgotten hazards of tree-work is potentially being struck by a falling limb or branch, but it’s a risk that is all too real. Establishing a drop zone to keep workers out of the fall path is an effective way to reduce struck-by injuries, but wearing a helmet is by far the best means of protection, often the difference between a fatal and non-fatal injury. Branch struck-by injuries can result in a Grade III concussion, skull fracture or haemorrhage – with the vast majority of these injuries reported in workers not wearing helmets. A helmet absorbs the energy of impact by crimping the shell and stretching the interior harness, massively reducing the blow – and consequently, the chance of injury.
While forestry headgear protects from external injury, it should also be remembered that they also guard against internal injury, too. Many tree surgeon hard hats come with ear defenders attached. This is because the noise can regularly exceed levels that are safe, with non-electric chainsaws usually 115 decibels – the recommended exposure limit is 85 db. Without taking measures to protect your ears, the intensity of noise can lead to permanent noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). A forestry helmet that provides all-in-one protection is therefore essential.
Exposure to the sun causes the plastic of the chainsaw helmet to weaken over time, so it is highly recommended you replace the helmet every three to five years. There are a few different ways you can tell if your current helmet needs to be replaced. Firstly, a helmet usually has a symbol inside that shows when it was made; if it’s been more than three to five years then it’s time to replace. Many helmets also now have a sticker on the outside that fades with exposure to light; when it has faded away then the helmet should be replaced. Finally, you can try pressing the two sides of the helmet towards each other – if a there is a cracking noise, then you should replace the helmet.
Workware import and distribute specialist equipment for the UK arboriculture, forestry, horticulture and agriculture industries. You can find our full range of headwear by following this link.