Chainsaw and Emergency Medical Trauma Kit Should Always Go Together

A chainsaw is a highly dangerous and potentially deadly tool! I attended a Forestry first aid class awhile back which emphasized this reality, and why you need a chainsaw trauma kit.

The instructor put out a statistic that Forestry Operations is the #1 most dangerous occupation. And traumatic bleeding is of highest concern.

I’m typing this reminder today because I’m going out later with my chainsaw. A few trees came down (leaners) from last winter’s storms on a part of the property near a hunting tree stand. Got to get that area ready.

I have been working in the forest for years with my chainsaw. It is WAY TOO EASY to become COMPLACENT! All it takes is one unforeseen mistake, a sudden kickback, or a broken chain, (among other things) to cause traumatic disaster.

So there are several questions to ask yourself before walking out the door:

Where am I going and does anyone else know?
What are the hazards (e.g. the chainsaw)?
Who will take care of me if something happens?

It is HIGHLY ADVISABLE to have another person with you while out with a chainsaw. If that’s not possible, it sure would be a good idea to let someone know where you’ll be and when you expect to get back. If I’m out by myself, I take a 2-way radio, my cell phone, and a small trauma kit (see below).

The hazards of using a chainsaw are potentially grave. So to mitigate that fact, be sure your equipment is in very good operating condition. Wear protective clothing (chainsaw chaps) and gear (helmet with face screen, chainsaw gloves). AND, ALWAYS BRING A TRAUMA BLEEDING KIT.

The emphasis of this article is the chainsaw trauma kit. It should always be with you when you have a chainsaw. Survival is up to you. Nobody else.

4 Minute Bleed Out

Actually, realistically, according to the instructor you will have about 2 minutes to make a decision and do something. After that, you will likely enter “shock”.

What are you going to do in that 2 minutes if you do not have your trauma kit with you (on your person or with your partner)? You will probably bleed out, right there.

Keep Calm and Stop the Bleeding

That’s how you will survive. You must remain in control of yourself such that you have the desire to do it, to stop the bleeding.

The process is conceptually simple. It’s like putting a cork in the bottle. You need to plug the leak, so to speak. You will need a cork (QuikClot pad), and a wrap (Israeli Bandage or stretch wrap ). Plug it, and then apply pressure.

Look for the related articles below for each of the following suggested items:

QUIK CLOT pad (the plug)

QuikClot is a sponge/pad containing a natural enzyme that speeds coagulation of blood. A major bleed will likely require to apply this type of pad in the field.

Israeli Bandage (the wrap)

Wrap it snug around the appendage. The Israeli Bandage wraps and also applies pressure with its unique but simple application.

Optionally, wrap the plug (the pad or QuikClot) with a elastic stretch wrap material.

Tourniquet (arterial bleed)

If there is a arterial bleed (spurting blood), you’re going to need a tourniquet. Your limbs make up about half your body’s surface area. So there’s a ~50% probability that a major traumatic injury might occur on a limb. And there are arteries there…

Don’t go into the woods with your chainsaw without a Trauma Kit

That’s all I’m suggesting. And I said “woods”, but it’s anywhere that you will be operating a chainsaw.

Take the time to order the stuff. Then take a little time on the internet to see how to use it. (I have some articles linked below).

Then figure out how you will carry it. I tend to wear cargo pants with deep pockets, so I can tuck the little packets inside a pocket. Or you might want to belt carry them in a convenient sized pouch. Just figure it out. Do it once, and you’ll be good to go on all subsequent outings.

How to Stop The Bleeding With Quik Clot

How to Use Israeli Bandage To Stop Traumatic Bleeding

About the Stretch Wrap Self Adhering Bandage

Trauma Kit List | 5 Essential Items


  1. Thanks Ken,,,
    It happens fast, takes a moment to register

  2. A pair of kevlar chainsaw chaps is a good investment, gloves too, they now have some less clunky arborist gloves that work well,

    The quick clot is indispensable,

    The biggest issue i had when felling trees was stuff flying out of the canopy from other trees as the one i cut was going down,

    But then again i was cutting down big eucalyptus trees, usually 36″ or bigger at the butt so the canopy was up there a ways, scary stuff

    1. Kulafarmer,
      I used to live on the west coast where the Eucalyptus trees were HUGE. Incredibly dangerous. Plus they are highly flammable!

  3. Ken: Thank you for the safety reminder for those going into the woods this summer and fall. I will not cut trees alone anymore using a chain saw.

    I am also cautious on who I let use the chainsaw because there are those people who use poor judgement everyday. (These are the folks who will lose or break the tools you loan them.). Those people who break things or get the saw blade pinched in a cut were delegated to be swampers. ( people who lift and move branches and rounds of wood.)

    If there is a member of your group that resembles what I just described, they are best off not using the chainsaw. A person using the chainsaw must have respect for the tool as well as examining the problem at hand ( like a leaning hazard tree ).

    A good sawyer will take a few minutes to walk around the problem and decide where to cut and what type of cut. I still use a plumb-bob to determine subtle lean the slope of a hill.

    Eucalyptus trees were especially dangerous because the branches will not support the weight of a sawyer climbing up in order to top it or limb it. If the base diameter was too big for the saw blade, we called in a professional crew because few people have the resources to keep on hand: a dump truck, wood chipper, and a crane to start limbing the tree prior to dropping the trunk.

    I have worked as part of a crew in SoCal in my younger years. It was a good supplemental job to seasonal firefighting. ( fight fire in summer season/cut back brush and create fire corridors in the winter season.)

    1. The big Eucs are fun, most varieties have what they call brittle heart, it is exactly what it sounds like, your hinge isnt always going to act like you think it will,
      My favorite was taking down some big trees on the sde of a hill, first one went down not bad, a bit harder than i would have liked, caused a shake in the trunk (cracks) the second one was about 50 yards uphill from the first, about 60’ higher elevation, that tree just exploded on impact, sent chunks flying everywhere including right back towards me, was quite the sight seeing my friend who wanted to come along that day, his eyes were wide and he was shaking,,,fun stuff all the β€œfree wood” as i used to have people tell me, never mind the half a million dollars in equipment it took to move, haul and process it…..,

  4. So I just got back to the house. Mission accomplished. The leaning trees in that area are now down, cut into ~4 foot lengths, and inconspicuously stacked. The QuikClot and Israeli Bandage remain sealed in their packets. Mrs.J was with me, the ATV driver and hauling assistant.

    Do you know what the worst thing was? I got stung by a stinkin bee! Dang that hurt! Right on my ear. Oh well. Hazards of life.

  5. A good “reminder” article Ken. Especially with the Fall/Winter wood gathering season upon us soon.

    If I may borrow one of your quotes;

    “It is WAY TOO EASY to become COMPLACENT!”

    How friggen real is that???? Not only with a Chain Saw but in 99.99% of what we do everyday. Seriously, how many people are injured or even are killed from simply tripping on something and falling, how about falling down a flight of stairs, how about on Ice?. You name it, almost anything/everything we do in “normal” life becomes complacent and we “can” and do get injured from it.

    We ALL need to be careful and be prepared to administer aid if/when needed. Just think on if a family member was injured and you did not have the resources or knowledge to help and you watched them “bleed out” from a Chainsaw Accident……..
    Or a bee sting and they were allergic to it — Ken.

    1. I am mildly allergic to bees so I carry Benadryl in all of my first aid kits.

    2. You’re right, NRP. Complacency, normalcy bias, needs to be consciously recognized where appropriate. Easier said than done…

  6. A guy I know who has years of experience had his saw kick back and almost take his head off while he was up in a bucket luckily he was wearing a harness and a buddy of his went with him at the last minute
    Only takes a second for it all to go to hell

  7. Great reminders on using a chainsaw. As many have stated , accidents happen in a split second.Have the first aid stuff and know how to use it and make sure your helper knows how as well.

  8. This also applies to using a machete or going to a gun range or hunting, never go without a first aid kit or gun shot kit. The life you save might be your own.

  9. Nice article Ken.

    An ounce of prevention equipment wise is also a good idea:

    – Decent Kevlar chaps – Stihl makes the best set I am aware of. I’ve had a chain bite into mine a couple times – could have turned out REALLY badly. Spend the money on quality, your legs and family jewels will thank you.

    – Safety helmet with visor and ear protection

    – Steel toed boots

    – long sleeve thick shirt buttoned down (sort of a mini chap for your arms)

    Yeah, its blazing hot especially in warm weather, but better than getting wacked and bleeding out.

    Another safety thing I have found over the years is the mental aspect: take it slow, steady and deliberate. Pace yourself. Always line up the bar on the log so its straight forward. Keep your legs out of the way when limbing, Hydrate. etc. Consider in advance how to handle torsion cuts. Always preplan an exit in case the chunk of wood falls in a place other than you expect. As soon as you feel yourself rushing on to the next thing, or twisting our contorting your body to make a cut: STOP. Gather your senses and proceed diligently.

    1. Bogan, covered all the bases, well said especially the last paragraph. Processing wood can fatigue you quickly.. We (daughter, son-in-law, DW and I) did some winter busted tree felling, chunking, hauling and loading all day. Many breaks, water with specific roles; cutter, trimmer, helper, haulers. Chucking brush into piles to prevent tripping. Big saw, limbing saw, pole saw, maul, wedges, the whole enchilada of gear. Called a halt after six hours, everybody was gassed. Beats goat yoga for exercise.

  10. Timely, had GD using small Ryobi 10″ saw today. Wearing chaps with empty pocket and thinking I do need to fill that pocket. Links Ken? I’ll order from Amazon.

  11. It appears that I’m reading from seasoned cutters here so this comment is for those just learning to run a saw.
    When cutting firewood be sure to stop the chain from spinning before moving down the log to the next cut.

    1. Hey Cuz,,,
      To add to your comment,
      If your chain is adjusted properly and the idle on the power head set properly, that chain should not be moving unless your finger is in the throttle. Just a bit o safety minded info

      1. No argument with you Kulafarmer but when I’m cutting firewood, moving down a log, my finger is most always in the throttle.

  12. This is a timely article. I will be putting a trauma kit in our wood splitting area. The kids will all be over in a few weeks to help cut up, split and stack my fire wood for this year.

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