Forest Industry Safety & Training Alliance, Inc.

Ben Parsons, FISTA Training CoordinatorMay 2013

Partners In Safety

At age 16, my dad taught how to operate a chainsaw on our family farm. The lesson was very brief, and I was at least wearing leather work boots for PPE, but that’s about it. As far as the lesson goes, the most valid points were to start the saw on the ground with my foot on the handle and don’t touch the tip of the saw on anything. Honestly, that’s probably a better orientation than most of you had the first time a chainsaw was placed in your hands. I hear from numerous operators in my classes that their first chainsaw safety lesson was more like, “here’s the saw, don’t get hurt”.

Without mentioning any names, the first saw I operated was red, with absolutely zero safety features. Shortly after, we purchased a black and yellow saw (again to avoid mentioning names) that was equipped with a chain brake, chain catch and throttle lock. I can still remember the tingling in my hands, wrists and forearms after a day of cutting due to the lack of an anti-vibration system. I doubt there was much of a spark arrestor, since the thing sounded like a custom chopper going down the road. To this day I believe that a well sharpened cross-cut saw would’ve been faster, but we wouldn’t have had the privilege of enduring hearing loss resulting from such a cool sounding machine.

Equipment and safety apparel have come a long way since then. I remember joining the lumberjack team at WVU in ’97 and running my first STIHL chainsaw. It was a 36 Pro and man, was it nice compared to what I was used to operating! I was instructed by the team captain at the time, I couldn’t run the saw without wearing this hard hat contraption with ear muffs and a bee-keeper looking shield in front of my face, as well as a pair of chainsaw chaps. The protective chaps were a new concept to me, but seemed to make a lot of sense.

Through the years, I was able to attend a number of chainsaw training classes and demonstrations. Each time, I would pick up a handful of new techniques and different ways of thinking about things; and I NEVER passed up an opportunity to operate a newer and bigger STIHL! When the time came for me to buy my own personal equipment, I knew exactly what I wanted. As a matter of fact, I still have the first STIHL saw I bought for myself 14 years ago. Although bigger and newer STIHL saws get more of my attention these days, it still sits among all the other orange and white power tools in my garage as if to be a shrine to the beginning of a great working relationship.

That relationship has once again taken another step forward. On April 1, I made a trip to Hayward, WI to meet with the Midwest STIHL team and accept a very generous sponsorship opportunity. FISTA’s mission has always been “Fostering safety and sustainability in our forests through education and training”. STIHL and Midwest STIHL have enabled FISTA to better support the need of safety and sustainability training by providing the use of their quality products and safety apparel. I highly encourage you to support the businesses that support YOUR safety and training organization. Thank you Midwest STIHL!

Ben Parsons, FISTA Training Coordinator, is originally from West “By God”, Virginia as they say in that part of the Appalachian Mountains. His family’s deeply rooted philosophy of living off the land was monumental in deciding to earn a degree in Forest Management from West Virginia University.  Throughout his career, Ben has had the opportunity to tackle a wide variety of assignments.  He measured Forest Inventory and Analysis research plots in Virginia and Georgia, been involved with urban and utility forestry operations throughout the Appalachian region, procured lowland hardwood timber in the swamps of South Georgia, managed logging contracts and harvest operations in Arkansas and specialized in water quality and harvest planning as well as fighting forest fires in Virginia. As FISTA Training Coordinator, helping to meet your safety and educational needs is the number one priority here at FISTA.  For more information, contact Ben at 800-551-2656 or