With both electric and petrol-driven models, safety considerations are paramount.

Q Are electric chainsaws any use in the commercial world?

A Yes, especially for grounds maintenance staff, professional gardeners and estate workers. Inexperienced and infrequent users of chainsaws will find that electric models offer advantages. They may require a power supply, and ultimately may be less powerful, but electric chainsaws are easier to use and manoeuvre. They are also much lighter than their petrol counterparts.
The weight associated with a petrol chainsaw can quickly tire the arms and hands of the infrequent user, and so increase the risk of an accident. In addition, electric saws are quiet; there are no emissions and no worry about fuel going off between jobs.
It is important to remember, however, that electric chainsaws work on the same principle as petrol models. They have a sharp chain turning at rapid speeds and must be used with care and respect. If no training has been received, it is best to resort to handsaws or call in the services of a professional contractor - one that is registered with a recognised arboricultural organisation.
Professional arborists will have received training, acquired experience and developed skills using faster-accelerating, higher-torque petrol-driven chainsaws. Their work demands high power and freedom of movement.

Q What types of saws are available and what jobs will they tackle?

A Electric chainsaws are rear-handled and come in a variety of sizes, with different bar lengths. Choose a small, lightweight and compact saw for trimming trees or cutting firewood. A more powerful saw and longer bar may be needed if you want to fell small trees.
Petrol chainsaws also come in a wide range of power ratings and with various-sized bars. Select a saw with more power for bigger jobs and for cutting hardwoods. Frequent users will also want fast acceleration and higher torque. A high chain speed is needed to make clean cuts with minimal bark tearing. Ultimately, your choice of saw should reflect your level of training, experience and skill.
In addition, petrol chainsaws may be rear-handled or top-handled. Professionals with training and certification are the only people permitted to purchase and use top-handled chainsaws. At the point of purchase, the dealer should ask to see your certificate to prove that you have the required training and skill to use a top-handled saw. This type of saw has been designed for tree pruning and is intended for use only in trees. Never use a top-handled saw while standing on the ground.

Q What safety aspects should be considered when using a chainsaw?

A Firstly, it is important to use the right saw for the job and one that matches the level of training and experience. If you are using an electric saw you need to consider the power supply and cable. Users of petrol saws have to think about the fuel and oil, the risk of spillage, heat generated during use, emissions and noise. Look for large, well-placed filler holes to make fuelling the chainsaw easier.
For all chainsaws be aware that, with the chain whizzing round at high speed, safety is a priority and training essential. The saw must have an effective chain brake and chain catcher.
It is also important that the operator can reach and use the on/off switch quickly and without moving the hand from the working position at the rear. The saw must also have a hand guard at the front to stop the other hand falling on the bar. Check the exhaust is positioned where it will not cause burns to hands or legs. A good anti-vibration system is essential, and noise and emissions should be low.
Chain tensioning needs to be easy - with the tensioning mechanism located in a convenient position. Many saws now have this feature on the side in order to keep hands away from the chain. Gloves should also be worn when handling a chain.
Protective clothing is a must. Chainsaw trousers, boots and gloves are essential, along with a helmet with visor and suitable ear defenders.

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