By Tim Ard, Forest Applications Training, Inc.
Chainsaw operators for many years have known about the positive aspects of the leg protective saw chap. Every month though it seems I come across people that didn’t know chaps are available and don’t understand how they work nor their ever increasing need to put them on.
Loggers in the Western USA and the US Forest Service have been using them for decades now and they are increasing in popularity in all the states. Why you say? Because it hurts to be cut by a chainsaw and many of the injuries happen to the operators legs.
Leg protection garments work from what is called the process of jamming. The fiber padding in the chap leg is designed to pull out and jam the chainsaw chain, bar and sprocket to slow the speed of the saw chain and intentionally stop the chain rotation. The process doesn’t mean in every situation that chaps will prevent injury but the intention is to give reaction time and hopefully reduce the injury should the accident occur. I hear almost weekly testimonies of how chaps prevented cuts in accident situations.
Most all leg protection garments have a layered pad of what is called ballistic nylon. These nylon fibers are used in bullet resistant body armor, thus the term ballistic came about. Some are out of a fiber that is white in color and often called warp-knit. Some of the first on the market were from DuPont’s Kevlar® which is a yellow colored fiber. Some others have a combination of both fibers. The fiber is important but the real ability to work with the saw chain is how it’s woven and how the multiple layers are constructed in the pad.
A relatively new padding on the market is available from Elvex Safety. The fiber combination is called Elvex Prolar®. This Prolar® material, used in their leg protection products, is designed specifically for chainsaw leg protection. The material when hit by the moving saw chain pulls out and wraps the saw drive system as others but then it appears to explode (so to speak, it expands) and jams quickly. The result is a new generation Elvex ProChaps tested in compliance by Underwriter’s Laboratories in accordance with ASTM F-1414, Measurement of Cut Resistance to Chain Saw Lower Body Protective Clothing. http://www.elvex.com/forestry-safety-videos.htm
It is important too that leg chaps are comfortable and the design is such that it covers the legs in a fashion that reduces the chance of twist. If the straps are uncomfortable or the position of the leg pad is not positioned correctly, the chain will find its way to your leg. A design that seems to work best with this twist possibility is one called asymmetric. The pad is positioned slightly to the left of the chap leg to aid in preventing the twist, giving more coverage area and reaction time.
Outer materials of the garment you choose is related to the amount of wear you plan. There are lighter weight and heavy weight outer materials, usually of Cordura® fabrics. The pads are the same, so it doesn't effect their protection. There are a variety of sizes and lengths however that can effect safe coverage. You want to make sure to cover from your groin area to the top of your footwear. Also available are full wrap designs that cover the back of the leg, your calf area.
Two labels important to look for when purchasing are the testing classification label and the care instruction label. Make sure your chaps are designed for chainsaw protection and that you can easily clean them when they become soiled. Dirty, oil soaked protection pads may reduce the ability for the chain to pull out the jamming fibers and enable it to better cut through. Keep them clean…
My emphasis during training workshops is to never use your saw without Leg Protection and other important PPE items of Head, Hand, Eye, Ear, Face and Foot Protection. The ever-increasing need I wrote of earlier is simply - it costs more to repair you, a friend or family member, than ever before. Make sure you have it and use it!
For more information visit our website www.ForestApps.com
© Copyright 2011 Forest Applications Training, Inc.