Recent studies exploring the use of cordless tools in arboriculture have highlighted benefits beyond the obvious. 

WHILE the advances in battery-powered tools are proving popular due to their lack of exhaust fumes, in an environmentally conscious world it is far from the only benefit to their use.

The arboriculture community has long been familiar with petrol-powered tools, and it is thought that battery-powered tools – chainsaws in particular – could help reduce risk in the workplace. 

This could be good news for arb professionals who aren’t only enjoying the productivity and efficiencies granted by modern technologies, but who can now be confident that a switch to battery-operated chainsaws may reduce some of the typical health and safety concerns associated with the job, including noise and vibration. 

The Supply of Machinery Regulations 2008 places obligations upon manufacturers to design all machinery with noise and vibration risks minimised. For example, Stihl’s petrol-powered and some battery-powered chainsaws offer an anti-vibration system, first patented in the early 1960s, which dampens the oscillations from the machine’s engine to reduce the vibration felt at the handles. This uses steel-spring elements or rubber buffers to create a shock absorption system. 

And while most modern chainsaws offer anti-vibration technology, there are still hand-held power tools available that emit significant noise and vibration levels, which operators need to put control methods in place to manage, such as using ear defenders or limiting use of the machine.


Forestry Journal:

A 2022 study from the Health and Safety Executive titled ‘Hand-arm vibration and noise emissions of battery-powered tools compared with equivalent traditionally powered tools’ set out to test a representative selection of battery-powered tools and traditionally powered equivalents to better understand whether they produced higher or lower noise and vibration emissions. 

The research concluded that the chainsaws tested produced lower ‘in-use’ noise and vibration levels than the equivalent petrol or mains-powered machines.
In terms of noise, the petrol chainsaws used produced a higher noise level of all of the chainsaws measured, regardless of activity, with a difference greater than 12dB(A) between petrol and battery chainsaws. For vibration, the petrol-powered chainsaws produced higher values for snedding and cross cutting.
This indicates that battery-powered chainsaws are significantly better for ensuring that noise and vibration emissions are reduced, and therefore decrease the health risks.

Meanwhile, recent research conducted by Ego Power Plus as part of its Challenge 2025 initiative found that noise pollution generated by petrol-powered outdoor equipment heavily exceeds the daily exposure limit of 87dB(A) set by the HSE.

The independent tests led by Ego and Earlsmere, a leading vibration and noise testing company, compared noise levels emitted by both petrol and battery-powered rotary mowers, hedge trimmers, grass trimmers, leaf blowers and chainsaws, and found the petrol tools were up to three times louder than their electric counterparts. In fact, of all the tools tested, four petrol-powered tools exceeded the daily noise exposure limit of 87dB(A), with two generating noise levels of more than 100dB(A). Meanwhile, two battery-powered tools operated below or within the recognised limits.

Decibels are measured logarithmically. This means that decibel intensity increases by units of 10, so each increase is 10 times the lower figure. Therefore, 20 dB is 10 times the intensity of 10 dB, and 30 dB is 100 times as intense as 10 dB. As a rough guide, an increase of 3dB doubles the loudness.


Emma Gayler, ambassador for Challenge 2025, said: “Our latest research is clear evidence of the potential damage petrol-powered outdoor tools could be having on people’s health and well-being.

“Many professionals are still working with petrol-powered tools for hours upon hours every day, and without the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) to help reduce the impact of the noise levels these tools generate or switching to a quieter battery alternative, many could be doing more damage than they realise – not only to themselves but their colleagues and customers too.”

Other reports have found that in some cases, noise pollution can be linked to cardiovascular troubles, cognitive impairment and can even cause mental health problems such as stress, anxiety and depression.

Recent findings published by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee found noise pollution increases the risk of stroke and heart disease while the equivalent of 130,000 healthy life years are lost from noise pollution each year in Britain. Furthermore, its report shows more research is needed to update its understanding of exposure to noise pollution and states that the government accepts the need to regulate noise pollution but there are no specific targets to do so.

HSE advises employers to consider at an early stage how new or replacement machinery could reduce noise levels in the workplace – set a target to reduce the noise levels if possible. Ego’s recent testing shows the clear disparity between petrol and battery-powered outdoor equipment, with battery-powered tools offering a much quieter and safer alternative, helping to protect gardening professionals today and in generations to come.

Ego’s Challenge 2025 campaign was launched in 2020 to educate and empower domestic and professional outdoor power equipment users, urging them to switch from petrol-powered tools while highlighting the statistics the initiative has uncovered along the way.


Forestry Journal:  Stihl’s MSA 300 chainsaw is a powerful alternative to its petrol counterpart Stihl’s MSA 300 chainsaw is a powerful alternative to its petrol counterpart (Image: Supplied)

While many treecare professionals may prefer to use petrol-powered equipment for larger tasks, switching to battery-operated chainsaws for certain jobs can come with many benefits. Not only in that vibration and noise levels may be reduced, but their environmental, practical, and modest maintenance credentials make them a good choice, even for vigorous work. 

For example, Stihl’s MSA 300 chainsaw is a powerful alternative to its petrol counterpart, the MS 261 C-M. Stihl’s most powerful battery-operated chainsaw to date, it offers high cutting performance for forestry professionals performing tree removal, snedding or stand thinning tasks, whilst making communication with team members on the ground much easier.

AP System Lithium-ion batteries power the MSA 300 and three other AP System chainsaws in the Stihl range. Lithium-ion batteries offer longevity which maximises the user’s investment. With correct maintenance and usage, batteries in the Stihl AP system can be charged approximately 1,200 times, or around five years if charged once per working day. Alternatively, the top of the range AP 500 S offers up to 2,400 charges, the equivalent to 10 years’ life. Not only that, but the cost to charge a battery is significantly less than to fill a tank of fuel. 

Another highlight of Stihl’s battery technology is that interruptions to the charging process do not impair the lifespan of the battery, so there is no pressure to fully charge, or fully deplete each time. Lithium-ion batteries also have low self-discharge rates which means if stored correctly, the batteries will still offer the user the same level of power as they did when they first went into storage. 

When in use, it is natural for the voltage of the battery to drop as the battery depletes in charge. Without the technology that Stihl has in its machines, this would mean a loss of power. As the battery is used and the voltage drops, the amperage increases, meaning the first pull of the trigger gives the same power as the end of the battery – much like you get with a petrol machine. 

Not only this, but lithium-ion batteries are incredibly compact, meaning they can be positioned for optimum handling and balance in the machines, making them easy to handle for prolonged times. 


Forestry Journal: Stihl's Advance ProCom X-VentStihl's Advance ProCom X-Vent (Image: Stihl)

While manufacturers are obliged to reduce the risk of vibration and noise from their power tools, there are also cutting-edge accessories available on the market to help reduce the risks associated with harmful noise levels too. 

For example, Stihl’s Advance ProCom ear defenders and the Advance ProCom X-Vent helmet, which sees the original headset fitted as standard to Stihl’s X-Vent safety helmet, offer a high attenuation value of SNR 31 and active noise suppression, while up to 16 users can communicate across vast distances.

This is a highly reliable solution for protection against the noise generated by petrol-powered equipment. What’s more, the headsets offer an intuitive ambient mode which means noises, such as traffic or passers-by, can be hearD. The feature also automatically de-activates once a loud noise like a petrol chainsaw is detected, protecting the user’s ears accordingly. This means you can go from a conversation with a customer with the ear defenders on, to using a chainsaw, without having to adjust your ear defenders manually.