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Chain Saw Kickback Significantly Reduced

Release Date: August 07, 1985

In light of an industry program undertaken cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, that has led to a nationally recognized voluntary standard for chain saw kickback, the Commission today voted 3 to 0 to terminate further work on a mandatory federal chain saw standard. The voluntary standards expected to reduce-kickback injuries by 70 to 80 percent.

The Commission withdrew a May, 1982, advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) that would have allowed the agency staff to develop regulations covering chain saws, and their component and replacement parts, to protect against rotational chain saw kickback.

Kickback occurs when the saw chain moving around the nose of the guide bar accidentally touches another object, such as a log branch or twig. Such contact can cause the chain saw to rear violently back toward the operator, often leading to serious injury or death. According to Commission estimates, such kickback was involved in about 22,000 medically attended chain saw related injuries in 1982.

A revised industry standard soon to be published by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) establishes a test for measuring kickback energy and limits the maximum calculated kickback to a 45 degree angle for gasoline powered chain saws below 3.8 cubic inch displacement, which includes all saws most often bought by consumers. All such saws most also be equipped with a front hand guard as well as have at least two separate features for reducing the risk of kickback -- such as low or reduced kickback saw chain, chain brakes, reduced-kickback guide bars, bar tip guards or other features demonstrated to significantly reduce the risk of kickback injury. The Underwriter Laboratories (UL) standard for electric chain saws will require the same safety features.

Estimates presented by the agency staff indicated that compliance by domestic and foreign manufacturers with the voluntary standard is currently in excess for 90 percent and is expected to approach 100 percent. New anti-kickback features incorporated in new chain saws are not likely to increase the average price of the chain saw more than a negligible amount, if at all, Most manufacturers are already providing hand guards, incorporating features to reduce kickback injuries and meeting the 45 degree requirement of-the revised standard.

CPSC also suggested that consumers with older chain saws should consider retrofitting their saws with one of the 'new low-kickback replacement chains. Some 15 million older chain saws which lack the low-kickback chain are thought to be in use, but the risks from these older saws could be substantially reduced if the saws were equipped with the low-kickback chain and the low-kickback bar.

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The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risk of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product-related incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. CPSC's work to ensure the safety of consumer products has contributed to a decline in the rate of injuries associated with consumer products over the past 50 years. 

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