What Is Chainsaw Kickback? How to Avoid It?


In Brief: What Is Chainsaw Kickback?

Chainsaw kickback is when the chainsaw unexpectedly jerks upwards or backward during use. It happens when the nose contacts an object or the bar gets pinched. The risks include loss of life and limb. You can prevent chainsaw kickback by maintaining your saw, being aware of the kickback zone, wearing PPE, and following proper felling procedures.

Avoiding chainsaw kickback should be your number one concern when operating a chainsaw.

Safety always comes first with power cutting tools, so you need to know how it happens, why it is a problem, and how to avoid it happening to you.

This guide will take you through everything you need to know about chainsaw kickback and how to avoid it.

What Is Chainsaw Kickback? – How It Happens

There are two ways that kickback commonly occurs when operating a chainsaw.

  1. The first type of kickback occurs when the nose of the chainsaw contacts an object while the chain is spinning.
  2. The second type of kickback occurs when the material you are cutting, usually a tree trunk, closes in and pinches the bar while the chain is spinning.

In both instances, kickback propels the blade towards you.

This video shows how touching the tip of the chainsaw to a log can cause kickback:

The part of the nose that most commonly causes kickback is called the kickback zone.

It encompasses the top half of the tip of the bar, where it does not sit parallel.


Cutting with the part of the blade indicated in the image above will cause your chainsaw to kick violently toward you.

The other type of kickback, caused by pinching, happens when you fell a tree incorrectly.

Using a single cut to try to take down a thick trunk puts you at a high risk of experiencing kickback, as the weight of the trunk bears down on your chainsaw as you cut through.

Why Chainsaw Kickback Can Be A Problem

Kickback does occasionally happen, either through operator mistakes, lack of skill, or bad luck. When it does, you are at a high risk of injury.

The chainsaw can be propelled backward or upwards with high force. The chain, which is still running, can contact the operator and cause severe and even fatal injuries.

Chainsaw kickback causes around 1 in 12 forestry accidents.

The main danger is the loss of life or limb.

A chainsaw blade can easily go through flesh and bone, so if kickback occurs and the blade contacts you, it could cause a fatal injury at worst and an expensive trip to the hospital at best.

How To Avoid Chainsaw Kickback

Because chainsaw kickback is so dangerous, many safety precautions have been developed to help avoid it.

  1. First, always be aware of the possibility.
  2. Never be complacent when operating a chainsaw.
  3. Specifically, continuously take note of where the nose of the chainsaw is and how close it is to other objects that could cause it to kickback.
  4. Always use a suitable chain for the task at hand. Some manufacturers produce kickback reducing chains. The chain needs to be sharpened regularly.
  5. PPE must be worn at all times when operating a chainsaw.
  6. Ensure that the chain brake works properly before using the chainsaw.
  7. The chain brake on modern chainsaws engages when it senses kickback, or when it contacts your hand which should be before the blade reaches you.
  8. Finally, follow a proper two-cut procedure for felling trees or cutting vertically through a log.


We hope this guide on chainsaw kickback has helped you to understand the dangers of working with a chainsaw.

If you follow proper safety procedures, wear the correct PPE, and keep your chainsaw well-maintained, you can reduce the risk of chainsaw kickback.

If you have any questions or comments about this guide or chainsaw kickback in general, please feel free to leave a comment below.

About Ryan Henderson

Ryan has more than ten years of experience writing about power tools. He is an expert in the field, and is able to provide unique insights into the reviews, use, and maintenance of various products. He enjoys cooking when he's not working on his articles, as well as spending time with his dog.