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Chainsaw Safety

What Causes Chain Saw Kickback?

What Causes Chain Saw Kickback?

There are two circumstances that can cause kickback when using a chain saw. The first occurs when the moving chain at the tip or the nose of the guide bar strikes an object. The second situation is when the wood closes in, pinching the saw chain in the middle of the cut. Both of these situations cause the chain saw’s guide bar to launch (or “kick”) up and back, which may cause the user to lose control of the saw, possibly resulting in injury to themselves or others. Additionally, as the size of the guide bar’s nose increases, so does the potential risk for kickback.

The following factors (alone or in combination) can increase the risk of chain saw kickback:

  • Improper saw maintenance or dull chain
  • Loose saw chain tension or incorrectly installed chain parts
  • Excessive chain depth gauge settings or incorrect chain depth gauge shapes
  • Bent, cracked, or broken saw chain components
  • Incorrectly sharpened chain angles
  • Loose rivets
The Kickback Danger Zone

The Kickback Danger Zone

The term “kickback danger zone” refers to the top of the tip of the chainsaw bar. This area has a high kickback risk. You should never saw using this part of the chainsaw bar because doing so would significantly increase the chances that you will experience kickback.

When this area of the bar touches an object, like a branch or log, there is high-likelihood that a sudden kickback reaction will occur. The larger the bar nose size, the higher the potential for chainsaw kickback.

How to Reduce the Risk of Kickback


  • Choose chainsaw chain with the lowest kickback potential suitable for your needs (check ANSI labels).
  • Use narrow-nose bars, such as our ControlCut guide bars, to ensure maximum kickback safety.


  • Make sure the chain brake on your saw works prior to use.
  • Check the installation of your chainsaw and that all of the components are securely fastened and functional.


  • Know your personal level of chainsaw experience and your saw chain.
  • Before using a new chainsaw, read the operating instructions in their entirety.
  • Pay attention to the position of your chainsaw bar nose at all times.


  • When preparing a tree for felling, use the underside of the bar.
  • Never saw above shoulder height.
  • For felling or crosscutting, boring the chainsaw bar into the trunk may be the best way to cut.


  • Follow all of the instructions that came with your chainsaw chain to help minimize the risk of injury.
  • Properly maintained saw chain, guide bars, and drive sprockets will provide excellent cutting performance and prevent damage and injury.
  • Equipment that is inadequately maintained will cut poorly and may create safety hazards.


  • To guard commonly injured areas, wear the proper protection equipment such as chainsaw chaps, gloves, protective eyewear, hardhat, hearing protection, and heavy boots.
  • Avoid clothing that is too tight or too loose.
  • When cutting, make sure your thumbs and fingers are completely wrapped around the chainsaw handles.
Not an Experienced Chain Saw User? Use Low Kickback Chain

Not an Experienced Chain Saw User? Use Low Kickback Chain

Most of today’s chainsaws incorporate features that reduce kickback and other sources of chainsaw-related injury. These built-in features include: chain brakes, the front (left) hand guard, the bar tip guard, and low or reduced kickback chain and guide bars. In order to guarantee the effectiveness of these safety features, you need to make sure that your chainsaw is properly assembled and that all the components are securely attached and functional.

Unless you have experience or training for responding to chainsaw kickback, you should use low kickback chain. In North America, low kickback chain is packaged with a green label from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

Chainsaws and the ANSI Standard

ANSI Green Label

ANSI Low Kickback Label

Note: Some older Oregon product packaging may use a blue label to identify low kickback chain.
ANSI Yellow Label

Professional Saw Chain

Professional saw chain has a yellow label with a warning on it. This type of saw chain is not low kickback and is only intended for use by professional chain saw operators.

What is ANSI?

Certain provisions of the safety standard known as "ANSI (American National Standards Institute) B175.1 - Gasoline powered Chainsaws - Safety Requirements," contain requirements designed to reduce the risk of injury from chainsaws sold in the United States. The following information should be used as a guide for the selection of appropriate replacement chains in order to maintain compliance with the ANSI B175.1 standard (United States only).

The ANSI standard B175.1 divides all chainsaw power heads into two groups:
  • Under 3.8 cubic-inch (62cc) engine displacement, the chainsaw MUST meet the low kickback provisions of the standard.
  • 3.8 cubic inch (62cc) and larger, the chainsaw MAY OR MAY NOT meet low kickback provisions of the standard.

Any chainsaw that does not qualify as a low kickback cutting system will bear a warning such as: “WARNING – This chainsaw is capable of severe kickback that could result in serious injury to the user. Do not operate this chainsaw unless you have extraordinary cutting needs and experience and specialized training for dealing with kickback. Chainsaws with significantly reduced kickback potential are available.”

Related Topics

Chainsaw Protective Gear

Chainsaw Protective Gear

Wearing the right chain saw protective gear reduces your risk of being injured. Find out about the different types of protective gear that protect six main areas of the body.
Tightening Chainsaw Chain

Tightening Chainsaw Chain

Proper chainsaw chain tension is critical for the performance of your chainsaw. Learn how to check and tighten your saw chain to avoid the risk of kickback and chainsaw related injuries.
Maintaining Chainsaw Chain

Maintaining Chainsaw Chain

Become familiar with proper saw chain maintenance techniques and the possible dangers which can result if saw chain is not properly maintained.
Sharpening Chainsaw Chain

Sharpening Chainsaw Chain

Make quick work of large jobs with a sharp chain. How do you get a sharp chain? Follow this guide, and with a little practice, you’ll be able to keep your chainsaw chain in top condition.

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