Boots on the Bottom

By  Tim Ard Forest Applications Training, Inc.

Personal Protective Equipment is easy to understand when it comes to chainsaw operation and safety. Organizations have started to realize there are huge benefits in employee work safety when they use PPE.

OSHA has guidelines and regulations that outline the PPE items for all industry workers. For chainsaws, the OSHA 29 CFR 1910.266 is the “vertical” standard list of the items for the operator. This standard is cited and accountable in all industries where chainsaws are used. Also, the operator’s manual from the chainsaw manufacturer always has a list of suggested PPE items for any operator of their equipment.

Why Foot Coverage? - Well, at the bottom of all those lists is usually foot protection.


The employer shall assure that each employee wears foot protection, such as heavy-duty logging boots that are waterproof or water repellent, cover and provide support to the ankle. The employer shall assure that each employee who operates a chain saw wears foot protection that is constructed with cut-resistant material which will protect the employee against contact with a running chain saw. Sharp, calk-soled boots or other slip-resistant type boots may be worn where the employer demonstrates that they are necessary for the employee's job, the terrain, the timber type, and the weather conditions, provided that foot protection otherwise required by this paragraph is met.


The chainsaw protective boot is not required to have a steel or composite toe for a saw operator. However, it’s pretty hard to find a chainsaw cut-resistant material boot without the safety toe. I personally don’t see any reason not to want one.  If you watched the episode of Myth Buster’s on TV you know the issues that people use for excuses not to wear them are myth.

There are several overtime tested designs now on the market that meet the OSHA requirements. There is a standard that is tested and classified by UL (Underwriters Laboratories) to meet a North American voluntary foot protection manufacturer’s standard. Some boots are built and available to that design. More than that, they are available to protect your feet. As with any PPE, they are not designed to prevent injury (although many times they do) but are there to reduce injury should an incident occur.

 Chainsaw protective boots are available from about $80 to over $400 depending on the style, material and protection options. There are boots out of all rubber with resistant fibers. There are boots with rubber bottoms and leather tops with resistant pad layers. There are boots of total leather uppers with resistant pad layers and also with waterproof materials in the linings.

If you notice in the standard they also mention slip resistant soles. Good traction is a major consideration when selecting a boot for all weather conditions and terrain navigation. Chalk boots or “Corks” as they are sometimes called, are really great for the woods floor and in icy conditions.

Who Foots the Cost? - A consideration that probably is the reason OSHA doesn’t write more citations for neglecting footwear in chainsaw operation is the specialty of the product and the first line of the written standard… “The employer shall assure that each employee wears foot protection,.”  This is a little different than the other regulations that read, “The employer shall provide, at no cost to the employee, and assure that each employee who operates a chain saw wears…”  This means the employee is the responsible party for the purchase cost of the boots. The employer still has to make sure the employee wears and maintains the required boots to fulfill their obligation to the standard.

For some occupations that only use saws in emergency situations I can see the risk may be overcome by the cost versus exposure time. You know though, cuts to the foot are very easy to accomplish and the more important traction situation is probably the culprit most of the time in saw cuts. I’ve said for years that “I believe the majority of cuts come not as much from the reactive forces of the saw but from our action to its reaction.” The stance, stability and control of the saw really start at the bottom!

Bottom Line  - Find a good chain saw resistant boot and make your sawing potentially more stabilized!

Chainsaw protective footwear is available from our ChainPoint Connections, and our eStore at .