For arborists and other trades, the chainsaw is one of the most indispensable tools of modern tree work. It goes without saying that it is also one of the most dangerous. Lacerations caused by chainsaw accidents are often deep and multiple, and can result in severe life changing injuries, such as amputations, severed tendons and nerves, and partial paralysis.
When operating a chainsaw, it’s therefore necessary to take certain precautions to protect your safety and wellbeing. Making sure you have the proper protective clothing is one of the most important. Protective clothing helps prevent accidents from causing serious harm and comes in several forms, from chainsaw boots and helmets, to safety glasses or visors – as well as trousers, jackets and gloves made from protective fabric.
Chainsaw Protective Fabric
Conventional fabric offers no protection whatsoever against a running chainsaw, which will cut through the fabric immediately, so special fabrics have been – and continue to be – developed for chainsaw clothing.
This protective fabric must work on a number of principles, balancing protective qualities with breathability, comfort and flexibility. Clothes that prevent the user from moving easily, or are too hot, present a safety issue in themselves, even if they offer comprehensive protection from the saw itself. Heat stress caused by overly warm clothing can be dangerous, and lead to an inability to concentrate and muscle cramps – not a great combination for handling a chainsaw – as well as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Striking this balance therefore comes down to the job at hand, and the equipment being used. A numerical classification scheme has been developed in the EU to rate fabric for protection against cutting, relating to the chain speed of the chainsaw and what it can protect from:
|0||16 metres per second (36 mph) (3150 feet per minute)|
|1||20 metres per second (45 mph) (3937 feet per minute)|
|2||24 metres per second (54 mph) (4724 feet per minute)|
|3||28 metres per second (63 mph) (5512 feet per minute)|
This chain speed is specified in the manual for a chainsaw.
So how does chainsaw protective fabric actually work? Well, primarily through layers – the outermost layer can be made tough and slippery to protect against minor damage, while beneath this, layers of long, loose fibres are laid. When the saw makes contact with the fabric, it immediately cuts through the outer layer, but this draws the inner layer out, which wraps around the saw’s drive socket, locking it solid and halting the chain, limiting the damage to the wearer.
Chainsaw Protective Clothing
The way the fabric works is consistent in all forms of protective clothing, however the way it is used varies based on the item of clothing and the needs of the wearer.
Protective jackets offer great all-over protection for the arms and torso, though users should be wary of heat stress as they are highly insulating. New technologies are being developed all the time, however, meaning the new breed of jackets can be much more lightweight, comfortable and ventilated. The 1SI5 Chainsaw Jacket, for instance, benefits from new technologies that allow it to be thinner and way more comfortable than previous jackets, while still offering the same level of protection.
Gloves, on the other hand, differ because they need to allow flexibility and as much grip as possible in order for the wearer to safely operate the chainsaw. Typically, most chainsaw injuries to the hand occur on the back of the left hand, so protective fabric is placed on the back of the left glove, but elsewhere is generally less padded, as extra unnecessary padding can impact grip and flexibility. As developments continue to be made, though, more protective fabric can be added without compromising on grip and dexterity. The 2SA5 Anti-Slip Chainsaw Gloves offer anti-cut protection in both hands, for instance, while still providing anti-slip grip for easy chainsaw operation.Trousers come in two standard forms: Type A, which protects only the front of the legs, and Type C, which gives protection all-round the legs. Climbers and tree surgeons, who will be cutting from a wider variety of positions, would require the all-round protection of Type C. Like chainsaw jackets, Type C trousers are highly insulating, and could cause heat stress if worn for labour intensive work, so for comfort and ease of movement, arborists, ground workers or firewood cutters would generally opt for Type A trousers, due to the low risk of being cut in the back of the leg. The brand new Canopy W-Air Type A Chainsaw Trouser (product code 1SBC) is specifically designed for arborists, combining lightweight comfort and excellent ventilation with protection that meets European safety standards.
Chainsaw boots protect the operator from front cuts, and, to a certain extent, sideways cuts. Based on steel-toe boots, they have additional layers of chainsaw protective fabric on the exposed front surfaces, offering protection from the saw in areas where accidents are most likely to occur. They also provide extremely good sole grip, which is essential when operating a chainsaw, as any accidental slips could be very dangerous. The new Class 2 3SIC Grizzly Chainsaw Boots from SIP Protection exemplify this – they have an all-terrain sole that assures grip on unstable and heavy grounds, wet or dry, with extremely robust fabrics that provide great protection.
Workware import and distribute specialist equipment for the UK arboriculture, forestry, horticulture and agricultural industries. You can find our full range of chainsaw protective clothing by following this link.