In this article we are going to consider the best chaps for chainsaw use.
What are they?
Chaps are used to protect the legs in the event that the chain accidentally comes into contact with them. I’ve seen some pretty nasty injuries to the legs as a result of this and if you are doing any serious cutting leg protection is essential.
What types can you get?
There are basically two types of chainsaw trousers, Type A and Type C (Not quite sure what happened to B!).
Type A trousers are designed to protect the front leg only. (This is the part of the leg where most injuries are likely to occur). They are often in the form of leg aprons and are fitted over normal work clothes. An example of this type of chap is shown in the image below. They have an adjustable waist strap and several leg straps to secure them around the thighs and calves. They are very easy to put on and get off, although the straps can be a little annoying if they get tangled with twigs and branches on the ground.
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Because of the lower risk of injury to the back of the leg, these are suitable for people working on the ground and are ideal for the occasional use home and farm owner who may be cutting firewood or tidying storm damage, for example.
Type C trousers give all round leg protection and are almost always worn as conventional trousers. These are particularly useful when the chainsaw user need to work above the ground and cut in awkward positions. They are often worn by professionals, who tend to carry out trickier cutting tasks than the homeowner.
Examples of Type C chaps are shown below.
TYPE C (TROUSERS)
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How do chaps work?
The chaps consist of several layers. The outside layer is usually tough, slippery material that protects against minor damage which may impact on the layer below. Beneath the outer layer are long loose fibers of materials such as polyester, ballistic nylon or Kevlar, which are laid in layers. When the chain comes into contact with the chaps, the outer layer is immediately penetrated and the inner layers are drawn out wrapping round the saw's drive sprocket, locking it solid and halting the chain. This will limit the damage to the operator’s leg.
What do I need to consider when buying?
There are a couple of things you should look out for when buying a pair of chainsaw chaps.
Firstly, you need to consider the cutting protection these offer. This is usually based on the speed of the chain, which most manufacturers will provide details of for each of their saws. Indeed, the EU has developed a grading system as detailed below. You will find that some products will quote this Class number.
Maxiumum Chain Speed
16 meters per second (3,150 Feet per Minute)
20 meters per second (3,937 Feet per Minute)
24 meters per second (4,724 Feet per Minute)
28 meters per second (5,512 Feet per Minute)
If the product you are considering doesn’t provide any information about the meters per second suitability then look for compliance with the following standards.
Are they UL certified? UL stands for Underwriters Laboratories, a 100 year old organization which is a world leader in product safety testing and certification. UL performs compliance testing of the performance standard ASTM F 1897-2008. This standard covers areas such as chainsaw stopping capability, areas of protection as well as care and maintenance. To meet this standard the garment must be able to stop a chain rotating at a speed of 2,750 feet per second (14 meters per second) without breaching the inner layer.
Are they compliant with OSHA 1910.266? This is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s requirement relating to the leg protection worn by employees operating chainsaws. The leg protection must be made from cut-resistant material and it must extend from the upper thigh down to the boot top.
You should remember that even if the chaps comply with these standards they may not stop the chainsaw completely. A chain may, at full speed, be running at 4,000 feet per minute (20 meters per second) and upwards. However, chaps are designed to decrease the extent of an injury and minimize harm in the event of accident occurring. You may, however, wish to invest in higher grade leg protection if operating a more powerful saw.
The second issue to consider is the type of fabric and weight of the chaps. A higher class product may provide better protection but it is also likely to weigh more, as well as being more expensive and hotter when being worn. It is therefore worthwhile matching the chaps to the type of chainsaw being used.
If buying trousers you also need to consider the appropriate size. These should be loose fitting and slightly baggy. If they are too tight the operator’s leg will be pulled into the chain.
Other issues - Electric saws
You should note that chaps are not effective when using electric saws. As mentioned above, the chain is brought to a halt when the fibers wrap around the drive sprocket and in this instance the saw doesn’t have enough torque for the chain to keep turning. Electric saws have a much higher torque than their gas counterparts and the chain will keep rotating until the throttle trigger is released. The chaps may give the user a little bit of reaction time before chain cuts through the material but it won’t stop it from rotating.
In summary, chaps are highly effective when using gas powered saws. There really is no excuse for not wearing them, especially when you consider the potentially life changing injuries which they can help to prevent.
Other Chainsaw Protective Clothing
As well as chaps and trousers, users can protect themselves further by wearing other types of clothing. This includes items such as jackets and vests.
Chainsaw jackets and vests will help provide protection for the upper body. In the event of serious kickback, these jackets could be the difference between staying safe or incurring a serious injury. Modern jackets tend to be well designed, being lightweight and allowing for excellent movement. They are also constructed from tough materials which are designed with excellent ventilation to keep the user cool when working.
The ‘protection’ principal is similar to that of chaps and trousers. The jackets material and layers are designed to slow the blades cutting speed and clog the mechanism.
As well as jackets, protective gloves are also recommended. To ensure movement and flexibility, gloves can’t be too padded, otherwise they would be cumbersome and difficult to use. Experience has shown that most injuries to the hands occur on the back of the left hand. Gloves therefore tend to have cut-proof fabric concentrated to this part of the gloves.
As always, I hope you found this article of some use.