Nail Gun Safety

Nail guns are used every day on many construction jobs, especially in residential construction. They boost productivity but also cause tens of thousands of painful injuries each year.  One study found two out of 5 residential carpenter apprentices experienced a nail gun injury over a four-year period.  Often times, these injuries are not even reported or given any medical treatment.   So, how do you protect yourself from these injuries?  What types of training will you need to operate a nail gun on your worksite?

Nail Gun Hazards

Nail guns are powerful and easy to operate.  But, they are also responsible for an estimated 37,000 emergency room visits each year. Severe nail gun injuries have even led to construction worker deaths.

Nail gun injuries are common in residential construction. About two-thirds of these injuries occur in framing and sheathing work. Injuries also often occur in roofing and exterior siding and finishing.  Let’s take a look at a recent accident involving a construction worker in Southern Oregon.

A Southern Oregon contractor was on a roof with a framing nailer. He had his finger on the trigger with the autofire engaged. However, when he sat up from a crouched position, he accidentally pushed the tip of the gun against his knee, causing the gun to fire. The nail grazed his bone inside his leg and he was unable to straighten his leg. Paramedics had to carry him off the roof and down the stairs. He didn’t have to undergo surgery, as doctors were able to remove the nail.

Nail Gun Training

The incident above just reiterates the importance of proper training for workers using nail guns. Recent studies found about 1 in 10 nail gun injuries actually happen to co-workers. This is from either airborne (projectile) nails or bumping into a co-worker while carrying a contact trigger nail gun with the trigger squeezed.

A voluntary ANSI standard calls for all large pneumatic framing nailers manufactured after 2003 to be shipped with a sequential trigger. However, these may not always be full sequential triggers. Contractors may need to contact manufacturers or suppliers to purchase a full sequential trigger kit.

There are several major risk factors that can lead to a nail gun injury. Understanding them will only help you to prevent injuries on the jobsite.

Unintended Nail Discharge from Double Fire

Unintended nail discharges from double fires usually occurs when using contact triggers.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) found contact trigger nailers are susceptible to double firing. This occurs a lot when workers are trying to accurately place the nailer against the work piece. Researchers found a second unintended firing can happen faster than the user is able to react and release the trigger.

Double fire can also be a particular problem for new workers who may push harder on the tool to compensate for recoil. It can also happen when the user is in an awkward position, such as tight work spaces, where the gun doesn’t have the necessary space to recoil. The recoil of the gun can also cause a non-nail injury in tight spaces if the nail gun hits the user’s head or face.

If you would like more information on nail gun safety, please check out OSHAcademy’s free online course 611 Nail Gun Safety.