Friday, 11 June 2010

A Guide to Chainsaw Protective Clothing and Equipment

Chainsaws are potentially one of the most dangerous tools in general use, the saw is made to cut easily through large branches and tree trunks so any part of the human body will have no resistance at all to the cutting power in use.

Therefore there are recognised standards for the PPE required to minimise the risks in the case of clothing these are the standards EN 381. These standards specify levels of protection related to the speed of the chain and also the amount of coverage of the protected areas.

Class 0 resists chains up to the speed of 16 metres per second
Class 1 resists chains up to the speed of 20 metres per second
Class 2 resists chains up to the speed of 24 metres per second
Class 3 resists chains up to the speed of 28 metres per second
Class 4 resists chains up to the speed of 34 metres per second

There are also different parts to the standards each of which covers a specific part of the body:

EN 381-5 Leg protection
This is split into 3 different levels A, B and C and the minimum requirement is Class 1
A protects the front and ride side rear to both legs
B gives additional protection to rear left side of the right leg
C gives all round protection to both legs

EN 381-7 Chainsaw Gloves
This is split into 2 Different Levels A and B
A gives protection to the left hand
B gives protection to both hands

EN 381-9 Chainsaw protective Gaiters
These are recommended for occasional chainsaw users when working on even ground with little risk of tripping or snagging, worn in combination with steel toecap safety boots

EN381-11 Upper part of Body
These garments are normally Class 0 as to achieve higher levels would involve so many layers of material that the garment will be too heavy and unwieldy, leading to lack of mobility and the increased risk of heat exhaustion, both of these will have a negative impact on Safety.

There is a separate standard for Footwear EN 17249:2004
These items cannot be Class 0, they can be Class 1, Class 2 or Class 3 and are the only items that can achieve Class 4 status.
They must be marked with the Year and Quarter of manufacture.

How does chainsaw protection work?

There is no flexible material that can be worn as clothing, gloves or boots that can be totally impervious to cuts from chainsaw blades. Therefore a number of layers of protection are the only way forward.

The outer layer normally comprises of a material that is tough and slippery, this is mainly to ensure that outer surface is resistant to minor damage from thorns and other snagging mediums, which could expose the under protective layers. Beneath this, long, loose fibres of ballistic nylon or Kevlar are layered. When a saw contacts the trousers, the outer layer is immediately cut and the nylon or Kevlar is drawn out and wraps around the saw's drive sprocket, locking it solid and halting the chain, thereby limiting damage to the operator's limb.

Once the item has been cut it must be scrapped as the protection has been totally compromised. The saw must be stripped down and the fibres fully removed before using it again.


All Chainsaw protective clothing, boots and gloves sold in the EU must carry a pictogram depicting a chainsaw and information of the Class and Design it is rated to, this pictogram must be a minimum of 30mm x 30mm. For example:

Other items that must be used when using a chainsaw are:
Safety Helmet to the minimum standard EN 397 but recommended to EN 12492 if involved in tree climbing operations.
Hearing Protection to EN 352-1 (noise levels are typically 115 dB)
Eye Protection Mesh Visor to EN 1731
Safety Glasses to EN 166
As these are used for protection in other activities not just for chainsaw work they do not have to be marked with the pictogram.

Granite Workwear has always kept up to date with the latest developments in Chainsaw Protective Clothing and Equipment and indeed have a specialist Forestry section on the web site which is subdivided into Clothing, Footwear and Tools and Accessories. New items are added on a regular basis as they become available, we are very happy to answer any questions you may have on what is the best solution for your particular needs.

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