Chainsaws are an active part of straw bale construction. There are some other options for cutting bales, of course, but a quality electric or gas powered chainsaw is still my favorite. It’s really important that safety be considered when working with any tool and a chainsaw is no different. There are times when a small section of bale needs to be cut off and the temptation to have someone hold the bale while you cut is great. Without that person holding the bale, it’s unstable and tends to shift as the cut is performed. This makes for a messy cut and a dangerous situation for the saw operator.
You can see in the picture what I recommend. By using a piece of wood long enough to get the bale holder away from the saw and the “kick area” of the saw, he is able to provide adequate support for the bale and allow the chainsaw operator to work without added risk. The “kick area,” by the way, is the apace which the saw would cover if it bound up and kicked back. Kick back happens so fast that there is no way a person could move out of the path, especially if they are not the ones in control of the saw as they would have no indication that the saw was about to kick until it was too late.
Again, the simple use of a piece of wood makes this situation safe. Notice also that both men are wearing safety glasses. No, it’s not sawing hard wood, but yes, stuff can still hurt your eyes.
Here are some basic safety guidelines to keep in mind when working with chainsaws. This is only a partial list, so take whatever precautions you need to stay safe.
1. Work on a stable table. I like to use another bale or even better, two bales run perpendicular to the bale I’m cutting.
2. Keep your body out of the kick area.
3. Wear safety glasses and hearing protection.
4. Work in a well ventilated and light area. You need to see what you;re doing and breathing gas fumes all day won’t make your day any better!
5. Clearly mark your cut in advance and follow the line.
6. Watch for bale twine!
7. Be sure your helper is safe (see above).
8. Clean the sprocket and guard area often to keep it clear of straw. Jammed straw can throw a chain or catch fire.
9. Keep the saw well maintained. Oil and properly adjust the chain.
10. Always unplug electric saws and turn off gas saws before performing any maintenance or adjustments.