American River Watershed Institute
Fire Safety Project | Homeowners Equipment Safety Manual

Tree and Brush Thinning and Pruning Operations

Personal Protective Equipment

The following equipment is recommended for thinning:
  1. Industry-approved hardhat.
  2. Gloves.
  3. Eye and face protection.
  4. First aid kit.
  5. Nonskid boots.

Safety Practices

Basic safety practices for thinning and pruning include:
  1. Always carry pole pruners with saw pointing forward.
  2. Never stand directly under limbs being pruned. Stand upwind to avoid wind-blown sawdust.
  3. Regularly check saw bolts for tightness.
  4. When pruning, always cut branches, do not break them. Notch larger diameter branches from below before through cutting from top to avoid breakage.
  5. Suspend pruning during electrical (lightning) storms.
  6. Never use metal pole pruners when working within 100 feet (31 m) of powerlines. Use only wooden or fiberglass poles within this 100-foot range. Perform no work within 30 feet (9 m) of powerlines.
  7. Sheathe cutting edges when transporting or storing pruning saws.
  8. When not in use, lay tools on the ground where they are not a tripping hazard.

Chain Saw Operations

Chain saw operations include, but are not limited to, felling, bucking, brushing, limbing, and specialized uses. Homeowners have the obligation to walk away from any situation they determine to be an unacceptable risk.

Spark Arresters

It is a violation of California law (Public Resources Code Section 4442) to use equipment powered by an internal combustion engine on any forest-covered, brush-covered, or grass-covered land unless the engine is equipped with a spark arrester.

Personal Protective Equipment

  1. Industry-approved hardhat.
  2. Eye protection.
  3. Hearing protection (85 dB and above).
  4. Appropriate gloves (cut-resistant gloves for chain filing).
  5. Long-sleeved shirt.
  6. Chain saw chaps.
  7. Heavy-duty, cut-resistant or leather, waterproof or water repellent boots with nonskid soles (hard toes are optional).

Recommended chain saw features

  1. Throttle interlock.
  2. Falling and bucking spikes (or dogs) for falling and bucking operations.
  3. Anti-vibration system.
  4. Chain brake, fully functional.
  5. Proper saw for the job, fully operational. A full wraparound handle bar for felling operations is recommended. The full wraparound handlebar allows the operator to use the bottom of the bar from either side of the tree; the saw then cuts, pulling the chain and the spikes into the tree. When using the top of the bar, the saw has the potential to kick out of the cut, which causes the operator to put extra effort into holding the saw. This creates fatigue and takes attention away from other safety concerns.
  6. Proper bar length for the specific work project or activity.
  7. Chain, filed and maintained.

General equipment

  1. First aid kit.
  2. Fire extinguisher.
  3. Chain saw wrench.
  4. Chain file with handle and guard.
  5. Approved safety container for fuel.
  6. Chain and bar oil container, clearly marked.
  7. Proper wedges for the specific work project or activity (wooden wedges are not recommended).
  8. Single-bit axe or maul, 3 to 5 pounds (1 to 2 kg).

Safety Practices

Following these basic chain saw safety and health practices is recommended:
  1. Using a chainsaw at night is discouraged.
  2. Be aware of the locations of people, structures, power lines, and other potential hazards such as topography and steepness of ground, low-hanging and dead limbs and rocks, wind direction and velocity such as steady versus gusting and/or changing directions, diameter and height of trees, soundness of tree i.e., split, lightning struck, broken-off top or other noticeable damage, lean direction, limb distribution and moisture in the form of rain, snow, or ice.

Chain Saw Handling Techniques

  1. Carry the saw in a way to prevent contact with the chain, muffler, or bucking spikes.
  2. Point the bar forward when going downhill with the saw at your side.
  3. Point the bar backward when going uphill with the saw at your side. 4. When carrying a saw on your shoulder, take extra care due to the sharpness of the chain and "dogs."
  4. Wear a long-sleeved shirt, gloves, and a shoulder pad.
  5. Cover the bar and chain, preferably with a manufactured bar and chain guard.
  6. Set the saw at idle speed and activate the chain brake when carrying a saw for short distances.
  7. Shut off the saw when carrying it for a distance greater than from tree to tree or in hazardous conditions, such as slippery surfaces or heavy underbrush, and, in all cases, when carrying it more than 50 feet.

Starting/Operating a Chain Saw

The methods to safely start and operate a saw can vary with the model and size. The following basic precautions generally apply regardless of the saw model:
  1. Maintain a secure grip on the saw at all times.
  2. Always start the saw with the chain brake engaged.
  3. Start the saw on the ground or where otherwise firmly supported.
  4. Do not "drop start" a chain saw.
  5. In general, throttle up to full speed before letting the chain contact the wood.
  6. In general, do not throttle down before the cut has been completed. 7. Avoid cutting with the power head positioned between the waist and shoulders, which is considered a danger zone.
  7. Do not cut with the power head positioned above shoulder height.

Fueling a Chain Saw

Select an area with bare ground for storing fuel and oil.
  1. Allow the saw to cool at least 5 minutes before refueling.
  2. Fill the tank on bare ground or other noncombustible surface.
  3. Immediately clean up spilled fuel.
  4. Refuel outdoors and at least 20 feet (6 m) from an open flame or other sources of ignition.
  5. Start the saw at least 10 feet (3 m) from the fueling area.