Are Electric Chainsaws Safer Than Gas Saws?


Electric chainsaws have become wildly popular in the consumer market over the past decade, and for good reason. Despite the scoffing from experienced sawyers and heavy-duty users, electric chainsaws offer a friendly, gentle, and entry-level chainsaw experience for homeowners and those with small woodlots. A key to their appeal is that they appear to be safer than gasoline-powered chainsaws, but is there any truth to that? Are electric chainsaws really safer than gas chainsaws? While electric chainsaws are less powerful than gas saws and pose less risk of severe injury, they are still dangerous machines worthy of respect, and they create a hazard of lulling users into a false sense of security. The largest risk posed by electric chainsaws is you, as a user, failing to take them seriously and handle them with respect. Let’s discuss the differences between the two types of chainsaws, the threats they pose, and how to ensure you stay safe using them.

Electric chainsaws are safer than gas, but still very dangerous.

Electric Chainsaws Are Less Powerful Than Gas Saws, But Still Dangerous

The key reason why electric chainsaws can be seen as safer as gas is that they produce considerably less power. This isn’t always the case, as the most powerful electric saws can produce more power and perform better than the weakest gas saws. On average, however, electric saws are less powerful. Just as smaller, less-powerful gas saws can be good for beginners, the reduced power of electric chainsaws can be beneficial for beginners as well. They tend to be relatively forgiving, easier to control, and in the dreaded and very unfortunate event there is an accident, the hope is that the damage will also be mitigated. However, they are still incredibly powerful tools that can deal a great deal of damage to the human body, and that fact should always be respected.

Do Electric Chainsaws Kickback?

Many believe electric chainsaws are safer because they don’t kickback. This is simply not true. Electric chainsaws will still kickback. Because electric chainsaws are not as powerful as gas saws, they will kickback less frequently and with less force, but if used incorrectly, they will still kickback. This is because chainsaw kickback is caused by the directional pull of the spinning chain and not a random disbursement and ricochet of raw power as many believe. When a chain spins, the chain on the top of the bar will be pushing away, while the chain on the bottom of the bar will be pulling the saw in. This dynamic creates a spot on the top tip of the bar called the “kickback zone.” This area creates a sort of wheel-like force that will pull the entire chainsaw upward, creating the kickback. Regardless of whether you are using an electric chainsaw or a gas powered chainsaw, it is much safer to avoid cutting with the kickback zone. One must be particularly cautious when cutting in piles. This is when people can hit the zone without realizing–and when accidents can occur.

Both electric chainsaws and gas chainsaws have a kickback zone.

Will Chainsaw Chaps Work With Electric Chainsaws?

This is a bit of a controversial subject in the chainsaw community. Some say electric chainsaws are no safer than gas chainsaws because chaps are ineffective against the torque produced by electric saws. I personally am not qualified to speak on the physics of the matter, but several YouTubers have put these claims to the test and determined that chainsaw chaps will have comparable effectiveness against electric saws. However, corded electric chainsaws will take longer to stop than battery-operated saws, but the chaps still provide the best protection possible. You can watch the results of one of these experiments here:

As with any chainsaw, it is absolutely imperative that they are not used without appropriate safety gear. Take a look at our list of recommended gear you need to stay safe.

Electric Chainsaws Still Require Training

One of the greatest dangers of electric chainsaws is their appeal to beginners. Because they appear safer, there is a tendency to believe one does not need proper education prior to their use, and they are simply not feared to the degree they should be. If you are new to chainsaws and are looking to purchase an electric saw, get yourself proper training. In most cases, doing thorough research on chainsaw safety and operation will be sufficient, but when possible, I always recommend finding a class in your area that will teach you not only how to properly and safely use a chainsaw, but advanced techniques in felling trees and efficiently cutting logs. These are often available locally for fire fighters, forest workers, and trail maintenance volunteers, so asking in those communities can lead you in the right direction. You may even find that it is a tool you really enjoy using–many discover just that!

Remember: “Safer” Is Only Relative

Are electric chainsaws safer than gas chainsaws? Yes, that fact is hard to argue, but “safer” is only a relative term. Small guns are objectively safer than large guns, as they have considerably less power and do less damage, but it would be a major mistake (fatal even) to say they are safe. Both are deadly. One should take the same attitude with chainsaws. That said, if a beginner is looking for an entry-level saw for sporadic yardwork and other chores, electric chainsaws can work excellently. They are easier to use and operate, as long as safety precautions are consistently observed. The choice is yours whether you cut with electricity or petroleum, but no matter what: BE SAFE.

Zachary Lowry

A forester from northern Maine, I spent my early career working for large timberland owners, managing forest land and investments in the form of managing timber harvest operations as well as planning and managing precommercial thinning, planting, and herbicide application programs. These days I work on my own land and help timberland owners large and small manage theirs.

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