Tips: Nail Gun Safety

The tips are from the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH).

Air-powered (pneumatic) nail guns have become a popular tool among professionals and consumers over the years, largely due to ease of use, speed, and availability. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and NIOSH data for 2001-2005 indicate about 37,000 people are treated for unintentional nail gun injuries each year in hospital emergency departments across the United States. Forty percent of these injuries occur among consumers in non-work environments. Among workers, nail gun injuries increased 39 percent from 2004 to 2005.

According to the American National Standards Institute, a manual trigger and a contact element in the nose of the nail gun are the two key components on firing mechanisms of nail guns that prevent unintentional firing. The sequential trip-trigger is the safest type of trigger. It requires the nose of the nail gun to be placed firmly on the work piece before the manual trigger is pulled for a nail to be discharged from the gun. This type of trigger makes unintentional nail discharge less likely. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that a little over half of the injuries from contact-trip tools used in the residential construction industry could be prevented if a sequential-trip trigger was used.

Injuries caused by nail gun use include being shot by a nail from a nail gun, being struck by the nail gun or hose from a compressor, and injuries to the musculoskeletal (muscle or bone) system or eyes. The majority of consumer and work-related injuries were from puncture wounds or wounds that contained a foreign body resulting from a nail shot through an individual’s body part or a nail shot through construction material into an individual. Most injuries were to the hand or fingers, but eye and dental injuries occurred as well as electrical burns and noise-induced hearing difficulty.

The OSDH reminds the public that it is important to always use nail guns with caution and to recognize that training in proper nail gun use is necessary. Key elements for preventing unintentional injuries associated with nail gun use include the following:

  • If possible, use a nail gun with a sequential-trip trigger mechanism and do not disable safety features.
  • Review all precautions and warnings before using a nail gun.
  • Keep co-workers and bystanders away from the immediate work area.
  • Never point the tool at anyone, even if it is empty or disconnected from the air supply.
  • Keep hands and fingers out of the line of fire and aim the gun away from the body.
  • Make sure the tool is placed firmly against the work piece.
  • Never carry the tool with a finger on the trigger.
  • Never assume the tool is empty.
  • Always disconnect the tool before clearing jams or performing other maintenance.
  • Always wear appropriate personal protective equipment.

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