National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System: Tool Maintenance

The return to service practices after a good drill are an integral part of any drill. Ensuring the tools are inspected, adjusted to manufacturer’s specifications and properly lubricated and fueled are essential to future on scene performance. The inspection process should be a meticulous examination of the tool. This week’s featured firefighter near-miss report illustrates why.

“I had just finished cleaning and reassembling a chainsaw after our roof ventilation training. After ensuring that the saw was put back together correctly and adjusting the chain tension, I started the saw to test it. The saw was running at full speed for approximately 15 seconds when the chain came off and bound up on itself…The drive lugs were damaged and prevented the chain from sitting in the grooves of the bar of the chainsaw.”

Vent saws turn at thousands of revolutions per minute and undergo extreme stress while used on the drill ground and on the incident scene. Armed with this knowledge, the return to service inspection needs to be especially thorough. People who know chain saws attest to the fine machining and tight tolerances of the tool. Taking some extra time to inspect the finer edges of the machined parts to ensure they have not been damaged is an essential element to a properly working piece of equipment and a reduction in injury exposure. Consider the following:

  1. Where can the “drive lugs” be found on a chain saw?
  2. How often are the power tools in your department serviced by a qualified technician?
  3. Given your power tool service experience, is an inspection of the drive lugs and other moving parts with tight tolerance, part of your process?
  4. Do you use eye and hearing protection while conducting power tool maintenance? If yes, why? If no, why not?
  5. Did this report bring anything to light about your practices and actions?  

The drill goes well. The vent saw performs as designed. Once the drill is concluded, the return to service process needs to recall how the tool was handled. Slammed at full throttle into a roof prop or the built up roof of an abandoned building, torqued off center, twisted during a cut that causes the chain to bind in the bar, or otherwise abused, the chain saw goes through some tough paces in the hands of its users. An inspection that keeps in mind how the tool was handled, in addition to the experience of this reporter, will result in a more thoroughly inspected tool that is less likely to fail.

Have you submitted your chain saw, or other power tool near-miss report, to yet? Don’t put others at risk by keeping your near miss to yourself. For more on the value of firefighter near-miss reporting, CLICK HERE.

Note: The questions posed by the reviewers are designed to generate discussion and thought in the name of promoting firefighter safety. They are not intended to pass judgment on the actions and performance of individuals in the reports.


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