Are Chainsaw Chaps Necessary? Why the Answer Is Yes

A picture showing statistics of chainsaw injuries - the location and frequency of those injuries

I used to wonder if chaps were essential. Not too many people in my old workplace wore them, so I didn't either. That all changed when I cut myself. It happened so fast I couldn't react. Now I won't use a saw without them. Let me explain why chaps are necessary.

Chaps can potentially prevent up to 66% of all chainsaw-related injuries. Also, chainsaw accidents can happen so fast that you can't react, so chaps are a great last resort. For these reasons, chaps are necessary for all people working with a chainsaw.

In this article, I will go into more detail about why people should wear chaps. I'll talk about how accidents happen with some statistics to drive the point home. I'll finish with the role chaps play in preventing injuries.

Why Chainsaw Chaps are Necessary

There is a range of things that can go wrong with a chainsaw. Some of these things include:

  • Sawdust getting in your eyes
  • Hearing loss due to the loud noise
  • Burning yourself on the exhaust

But, the biggest concern is cutting yourself. Cutting yourself with a chainsaw can be fatal. Fatality alone is a good reason to wear a pair of chaps, but let's look deeper into this.

How Do People Cut Themselves?

I'm sure there are many cases of people cutting through a log and straight onto their foot or leg. I've heard of people cutting their arms this way too. But, this isn't the most common way people cut themselves. A common cause of injury is chainsaw kickback.

Kickback is when the saw flings back towards you. It occurs when the nose of the bar touches a solid object. Check out the image below to see the exact spot where kickback occurs.

A diagram showing the chainsaw kickback zone
The chainsaw kickback zone

Kickback happens in tenths of a second, so there's no time to react. There are saw safety features to help, but your best bet is protective gear. Below is a video showing a saw kicking back. Look how fast it happens.

Kickback in action

I was the victim of chainsaw kickback a long time ago. Unfortunately, I wasn't wearing any chaps, so the saw went into my leg. The result; five stitches. I was lucky. If I were wearing chaps, my leg would have been fine.

Let's Look at Some Statistics

It's always good if we can back up our claims with some statistics. So, let's have a look.

One study found that:

  • Between 2009 and 2013, there were 115,895 ED visits relating to chainsaws
  • Of those visits 80% were due to lacerations
  • Just over 40% of those lacerations were in places chaps would cover

Now, this study did have a focus on cutting technique and saw safety features. But, there was a small mention of chaps, and how they play a role in preventing injury.

Here's some more statistics:

A picture of statistics outlining chainsaw injuries
Chainsaw Accidents: Location and Frequency

Going by these statistics, chaps could have potentially prevented over half of these injuries. You might be wondering how I got to that number. Well, let's take a look.

You can get chaps for:

  • Your legs - 38% of injuries
  • Forearms and hands - 28% of injuries (42% - 14% to account for upper arm)

Mind you, the numbers above are a rough guide. But, chaps could have potentially prevented up to 66% of these injuries.

What Role Do Chaps Play?

Think of chaps as a last resort. They're there to protect you if all else fails. Before it gets to that stage, you should:

  • Be trained in the use of chainsaws
  • Be using the correct technique
  • Be aware of what you're cutting
  • Be aware of the potential for kickback

The above will protect you in a perfect world, but mistakes happen. So, let's take a quick look at how chaps work.

How Do Chaps Prevent Injury?

I've done a whole article on this topic. You can check it out here: How Do Chainsaw Chaps Work? A Quick Breakdown. This article goes into more detail, but I'll give a quick overview here.

Chainsaw chaps are made from a stringy material, similar to Kevlar. When a chainsaw hits this material, all the string gets tangled in the saw, jamming it. Chaps can stop a saw instantly, preventing injury.

The quality of chaps will make a difference. Thicker chaps will protect you better than thinner ones. However, any chaps are better than no chaps at all. Just be aware, you may get a small scratch or bruise with the cheaper, thinner chaps.

Now, you may have heard the term chaps and chainsaw pants. Let me clear any confusion.

You wear chaps over your regular pants by clipping them on. You wear chainsaw pants like you would regular pants. Check out this article for the pros and cons of each style.

The Final Verdict

Chaps play an important role in protecting you from chainsaw injuries. The fact is chainsaw accidents happen too fast for us to react. While you shouldn't solely rely on chaps, they will be there for backup if all else fails.

For chainsaw pants to be effective, proper care needs to be undertaken. To learn how to wash your pants properly, check out this article.

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