Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Going Ballistic!

Going Ballistic
By Tim Ard, Forest Applications Training, Inc.

If I understand how something works- I better understand the need for it or maybe how to use it. Chainsaw operators have been going ballistic over leg protection for many years now. I want to share with you a few thoughts.

The term ballistic nylon is used to describe the fibers recommended for leg protective (PPE) garments for the chainsaw. It actually is derived from fibers used in making bullet resistant body armor. One of the first and still used today is Dupont Kevlar, a very strong and durable yellow colored fiber. Fibers of this type were first developed and used in belting for automotive tires and other applications requiring reinforcement with flexibility. This reinforcement fiber was heat resistant as well as strong and soon found it's way into leg protection for logging and the US Forest Service. The USFS requires the fabric to be highly flame resistant because of their use related to forest fires.

Today there are several fiber types used for chainsaw leg protection. Many people still consider the fibers used in all leg protection as "Kevlar", similar to many call soft drinks a "Coke."

Whatever you call chainsaw leg protection fiber, it is the best insurance we can wear against chainsaw injuries to the legs. Let me state something here - No leg protection is to be considered cut proof. It is designed to give you reaction time and hopefully limit, lessen or reduce, the injury should the chainsaw come in contact. Several Manufactures test their pads and garment design to the ASTM standards for the North American Leg Protection Standard. Look at the label on your chaps, or the ones you are considering, you should find a label showing their compliance to this standard. Usually you will find the label of classification to the standard by the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) that performed the test.

Now understanding some of the technical aspects of leg protection let's discuss some typical concerns that may inhibit their use.

During a recent storm clean up following tornados in North Georgia, one of my good friends, Robert Albritton of Tree Works Unlimited observed a chain saw operator without any PPE. Robert, wanting to offer help to those volunteering, asked the young man if he were to get him a pair of chaps from the truck would he wear them? The young man replied, "I wouldn't want to mess up your chaps sir." Robert told him not to worry about that, but still no way he was going to accept Robert's offer. Robert is a professional who recognizes the importance of PPE with his employees and himself. When an unplanned incident (accident) with a chainsaw takes place, two top at risk areas for lacerations are - the legs.

Folks (being a Southerner and caring), you can compare chaps to ballistic body armor here. You can be a soldier or police officer without body armor but if you get hit by a bullet would you want to have it or not? The same is true relating to leg protection while using a chainsaw. Why wouldn't you want to make the investment and take the time to put it on if it could save your life or limb?

The past year I have had the opportunity to learn a great deal about products from Elvex Safety. Their leg protective pads designed with Prolar Fabric is a combination of white fibers layered specifically for chainsaw protection to maximize the chain jamming effect. If or when the chainsaw makes contact, these fibers work hard to maximize reaction time. It's not just the fibers, it's also how the woven pads are arranged and layered. Elvex works well!

Thinking about Going Chainsaw Ballistic? Consider Elvex Safety...

Learn more about leg protection with information and video presentations on the site ( ). There is a video showing the parameters of the ASTM testing ( and also one showing me cutting into a chap leg. When you see the Prolar Pads in action you will agree as I do... Never operate a chainsaw without them!

Good Sawing!

Tim Ard is president of Forest Application Training, Inc. . Elvex Safety is a sponsor of Forest Applications Training Programs.

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