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High on the low kickback

November 30, 2020 -  By
Person operating Stihl chainsaw (Photo: Stihl)

Safe saws Low-kickback chains, which have advanced in recent years, can help prevent operator injury. (Photo: Stihl)

The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports about 40,000 injuries from chainsaws a year. Even the most grizzled landscape professional needs to be aware of the risks involved in using these machines, including some recent improvements, says Eddie Anderson, technical training adviser for Stihl.

“A chainsaw is a serious machine — it’s not a knife; it’s a shredder,” he says. “We really push hard to make information available (to customers). The instruction manual and our website has a ton of information on best practices and the various options.”

Anderson says one option that professionals ignored 10 years ago has advanced so much that it deserves a second look today: a low-kickback chain.

“Back in the day, a low-kickback chain didn’t plunge cut well, or as fast, as a chain that was other than low kickback,” Anderson says. “Professional users didn’t like it, but the technology that Stihl has invested in this chain, we have some green-labeled low-kickback chains that operate as well as any other chain.”

When talking about new chainsaws, Anderson is excited about the company’s recent launch of the Stihl MS500i, which he says has the highest power to weight ratio of any chainsaw that’s ever been sold. Anderson advises chainsaw operators to brush up on their chainsaw knowledge frequently, especially after purchasing a new saw in order to fully understand its functions.

“We have a reduced-kickback guide bar, low-kickback chains and then of course the chain break, so there’s three levels of things operators can do to their Stihl chainsaw to help mitigate the reactive force that could occur if they have a kickback situation,” Anderson says. “If an operator has a low-kickback chain, he’s got a chainsaw that’s equipped with a functional chain break, he’s wearing a helmet and chaps … if things get crazy, he is most likely going to walk away. Wearing personal protection equipment and knowing how your equipment works, that is where it all comes together.”

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Seth Jones

About the Author:

Seth Jones, a graduate of Kansas University’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, was voted best columnist in the industry in 2014 and 2018 by the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association. Seth has more than 23 years of experience in the golf and turf industries and has traveled the world seeking great stories. He is editor-in-chief of Landscape Management, Golfdom and Athletic Turf magazines. Jones can be reached at

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