Clemson Extension Forestry and Wildlife

Personal Protective Equipment for Chainsaw Users

In the first part of this series on chainsaw safety, Patrick Hiesl talked about the safety features of modern chainsaws ( Now, we are telling you about the personal protective equipment available to protect you from most major injuries. For chainsaw users, Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, includes leg, foot, eye, hearing, face, and hand protection.

Cut-resistant leg protection is the most important PPE item you should consider wearing. For chainsaw users, specific cut-resistant material consisting of ballistic nylon, Kevlar, or other materials has been developed and integrated into pants or chaps that can be worn. Chainsaw chaps (Figure 1) are perhaps the most common leg protection PPE among private forest owners. The cut-resistant material consists of multiple layers of long strings (Figure 2) that, when cut into, will wrap around the cutting teeth of a saw chain and eventually prevent the clutch from engaging. This typically happens within less than one second. The material creates resistance for battery-powered chainsaws without a clutch and provides an initial jolt that should alert the user to let go of the trigger. We have tried this with a pair of chaps tied down onto a log, and the jolt we felt triggered an automatic reaction to let go of the trigger. It’s quite amazing how this works. Wearing chaps can be hot and possibly uncomfortable if you are not used to them, but they work, and they will protect the arteries in your legs should the chainsaw ever come too close to your legs. The price for chaps varies depending on the number of protective layers, chap style, and brand, but most range from $60 to $130.

Foot protection can come in many forms, and the goal is to keep your feet from getting cut and provide you with stable footing when using a chainsaw. While there are chainsaw boots with cut-resistant material embedded in them, their price point is often over $300. A good pair of hiking or work boots is typically sufficient for forest owners who occasionally use a chainsaw. Composite or steel-toed boots are an excellent choice when bucking trees into shorter pieces, especially if there is a risk for cut-offs to drop to the ground. You should avoid using a chainsaw when wearing flip-flops or sandals, as none of them are protecting your feet or providing you with stable footing. While sneakers protect your feet, they often do not provide a stable footing when walking over debris while cutting up a tree.

When working with a chainsaw, protecting your eyes from flying debris is important. A simple way to protect your eyes is to wear safety glasses. Safety glasses come in clear and tinted versions, are impact-rated, and do not break into small pieces when hit by an object. To ensure your safety glasses are impact-rated, look for the Z87+ label somewhere on the frame (Figure 3). Most sunglasses or reading glasses are not impact-rated and are inappropriate to wear when working with chainsaws, as they can break into small pieces when hit by an object. Another option to protect your eyes would be a face shield. This is a mesh screen that is placed in front of your face that will not only protect your eyes but also your face from flying debris. Face shields are typically part of a forestry helmet system (Figure 4), including a hard hat, face shield, and earmuffs. These systems are a great solution to protect your eyes, face, and hearing and typically cost between $50 and $150.

Chainsaws, especially gas-powered chainsaws, are relatively loud, and extended exposure can damage your hearing. Hearing protection is essential and can easily be achieved by using single-use or multi-use earplugs, earmuffs, or a combination of both. Electronic earmuffs and earplugs that cancel loud noises, such as for hunting and shooting sports, are also a great way to protect your hearing. You can damage your hearing in only a few hours without hearing protection.

Lastly, hand protection is strongly suggested when working with chainsaws. Well-fitting leather gloves are a good option when working with chainsaws, as they provide excellent protection when handling wood and sharpening or adjusting the saw chain. Gloves with cut-resistant material are available for purchase, and they typically consist of cut-resistant material embedded on the top of the left-hand glove. Avoid wearing loose gloves, as they will impact your control over the chainsaw and throttle trigger. We would also advise you to wear gloves that can be closed tightly around the wrist to reduce the accumulation of sawdust in your gloves.

This was a brief overview of the personal protective equipment you should consider wearing when using a chainsaw. Wearing cut-resistant chaps will provide you with a lot of protection from significant cut injuries and is worth the investment. For more details on chainsaw safety and handling see the Land-Grant Press by Clemson Extension article by Patrick Hiesl and Janet Steele ( and watch out for the next article on the safe handling practices of chainsaws in the CU in the Woods newsletter.

orange chaps laying on the ground
Figure 1: Cut-resistant wrap-around chaps are one style of chaps that are available to protect your legs from major cut injuries. Photo Credit: Patrick Hiesl, Clemson University. In “How to Stay Safe Around Chainsaws,” Land-Grant Press by Clemson Extension, 2022.
several layers of white fabric inside a brown fabric outer layer
Figure 2: Cut-resistant material in chaps is typically embedded as multiple layers of woven material. Photo Credit: Patrick Hiesl, Clemson University. In “How to Stay Safe Around Chainsaws,” Land-Grant Press by Clemson Extension, 2022.
up close of glasses frames with writing on them indicating their safety standards
Figure 3: Impact-rated safety glasses that are safe to use with chainsaws should have the Z87+ lettering on the frame. In this example, the “P” in front of Z87+ indicates the manufacturer of the safety glasses. Photo Credit: Patrick Hiesl, Clemson University. In “How to Stay Safe Around Chainsaws,” Land-Grant Press by Clemson Extension, 2022.
Figure 4: A forestry helmet system consists of a hard hat, mesh face shield, and adjustable earmuffs. Photo Credit: Patrick Hiesl, Clemson University. In “How to Stay Safe Around Chainsaws,” Land-Grant Press by Clemson Extension, 2022.


Patrick Hiesl, Clemson University, Associate Professor of Forest Operations

Janet Steele, Cooperative Extension, Forestry and Wildlife Agent

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