Using A Chainsaw On A Ladder – Is It Safe?

Cutting and trimming a tree does not always mean felling it entirely and then removing branches while it is lying on the ground. This is why many people wonder if operating a chainsaw while standing on a ladder is safe to do. The answer is not so simple.

Chainsaw On A Ladder

Using a chainsaw while standing on a ladder is not easy, and potentially very dangerous. First, it could cause the user to lose balance and fall off the ladder, leading to serious injuries. Second, the noise created by the chainsaw could distract or scare someone nearby, which also poses a danger. The results of falling off a ladder are always unpleasant; they may include broken bones and soft-tissue damage. These kinds of injuries typically require extensive medical treatment to heal properly.

Using A Chainsaw On A Ladder

Chainsaw Ladder

To be safe, it is best to never use a chainsaw while standing on a ladder, unless you are a trained professional with the right safety gear. It is also a good idea to never chainsaw overhead or above shoulder height.

However, some limbs that need trimming can only be reached by ladder. For these, it is better to call a professional tree trimming service than try to cut it yourself and risk serious injury.

For some very high up branches, an extension ladder may be necessary. Your local arborist will likely have one which they use to trim these. Arborists and professional tree trimmers know how to cut a tree properly to protect themselves and nearby structures from falling debris.

This includes:

  • Carefully handling tree branches that are cracked or decayed.
  • Avoiding overhead power or telephone wires.
  • Removing one section of a tree at at time.

DIY homeowners who try to cut their own trees risk serious injury. These can be caused by:

  • Using extension ladders that are not steady.
  • Using a dull chainsaw
  • Cutting too big of a branch all at once.

Large trees require knowing tree physics so branches being cut do not swing or snap and hit the person cutting them.

Is It Safe To Use A Chainsaw On A Ladder?

No. Using a chainsaw on a ladder is much more dangerous than if you are standing on the ground or on a secure platform. This is for several reasons:

  • The ladder can become unstable or fall off the branch it is leaning against.
  • The chainsaw operator can lose control of the saw, potentially hurting themselves.
  • The tree branch can be cut too quickly and bend or snap out of control.
  • For balance, an operator may try to cut a tree branch with one hand on the chainsaw, risking injury.

Working on an elevated surface should always be done with extreme caution and an eye to safety.

First, it is much easier to fall off an elevated surface than you might think. Working on a ladder while cutting a tree branch with a hand saw or pruners is one thing, and doing it with a chainsaw is another.

If you do attempt to use a chainsaw on a ladder, just be sure to follow all the safe working practices (proper footing, holding the saw at waist level, not overreaching).

Do Arborists Use Ladders?

Yes, arborists often use ladders. However, ladders are one of the least effective tools in an arborist’s arsenal. To be more accurate, they’re not really “tools” that can be used effectively by themselves – but they are absolutely essential to other tool that might be considered the real workhorse of modern day tree climbing: Work positioning device.

Arborists also know how to cut trees specifically to minimize branches falling in the wrong way. They also have properly weighted ladders and other equipment that they are practiced in using. This makes their job safer than an inexperienced homeowner trying to cut a tree down once or twice a year.

Chainsaw Ladder Arborist

Good Arborist Ladders

16.5FT Extension Telescopic A-Frame Ladder 16 Feet Multi-Purpose Aluminum Portable Ladder 330lb Loading EN131 Certified

Little Giant Ladders, SkyScraper, M21, 11-21 Foot, Stepladder, Aluminum, Type 1A, 300 lbs Weight Rating

Louisville Ladder FT1510 Fiberglass Tripod Ladder 300-Pound Capacity Type IA, 10-Foot

Can You Use A Chainsaw Overhead?

No. It is not recommended to use a chainsaw overhead above the shoulder height. However, sometimes this is the only way to reach a branch on a tree. In these cases, a trained arborist should be called to do the job.

If you’re forced to hold the chainsaw overhead, the weight of its engine could cause it to slip out of your hands and injure you. This is not just a pure safety issue, but an efficiency one as well. Holding the chainsaw over your head makes it hard to see where you’re cutting, which means that you may accidentally cut the wrong branch, or a power cable.

Using A Chainsaw With One Arm

Holding a chainsaw with one arm while it is turned off is safe. However, holding it while it is running can be very dangerous and lead to serious injury, even lost limbs.

Using A Chainsaw With One Hand

A chainsaw consists of a two-stroke engine and a guide bar with sharp teeth. The teeth on the cutting chain rotate at high speed, reaching speeds of over 200mph (320kph). Even when it is idling, an unguarded hand or arm can get caught by the rotating chain and be pulled into the saw.

It is best to be aware of where your hands are and have a two handed grip of the saw when you ready to cut.

How To Lift A Chainsaw?

Lifting a chainsaw to heights, on a platform, standing on a ladder is something that needs to be done a certain way. The chainsaw itself weighs a lot and if you aren’t well versed in how to lift a chainsaw then you could end up hurting yourself.

If the job requires that you take the chainsaw off the ground, whether it is going up on a ladder or standing on a platform, there are several things to consider.

Always grip the chainsaw by its handle and never the guide bar. If you have to use one hand, keep the chain pointed away from your body while you hoist it.

Lifting a chainsaw can easily guage the tree trunk, another person, or anything else in its path as it rises upwards. So, always be aware of how the chain and bar are pointed.

Hoisting A Chainsaw

Tree trimmers will sometimes use ropes to life chainsaws into trees. If you try this, make sure to have someone help guide it as it goes up.

Hoisting a chainsaw requires skill and balance. It can be safely done from walls, cranes, roofs, and high up in large trees. Tree climbers wear harnesses to maintain balance and keep their tools attached.

A climbing rope or ordinary nylon rope can be used to hoist a chainsaw. A loop with a knot should be wrapped around the guide bar and the rope pulled through the rear handle. The chainsaw should be lifted with the chain pointed downwards. Make sure no person or animal is below the saw as it is being hoisted.

In Closing

Cutting trees using ladders are sometimes required by professional arborists and trimming services. However, ordinary homeowners should not attempt to cut a tree using a chainsaw while standing on a ladder unless they are trained and have proper equipment.

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Nick Klamecki, Author
About Nick Klamecki, Author

Nick Klamecki is a certified Fire and Workplace Safety expert with 15 years experience in product research and testing. He has a degree from U.C. Davis, is an active outdoorsman and spent years ensuring the safety of special needs children. Nick researches and tests workplace, industrial and safety products and provides advice on their safe use. Learn more about Nick here or connect with him on LinkedIn | Medium