Nail guns cause approximately 37,000 serious injuries every year, making them the second-most dangerous piece of construction equipment. Second only to ladders, nail guns are a serious safety risk in an industry that is already plagued by workplace injuries and wrongful death.
Approximately 68 percent of nail gun accident victims are construction workers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that 2 out of 5 residential carpenters experienced a nail gun injury over a four-year period. Puncture wounds to the hands and fingers are the most common result of nail gun accidents, but nail guns can also cause more serious injuries and even death.
Nail guns all have the potential to cause serious injury, but nail guns with a bump or automatic trigger—known as a “contact trip trigger”—can release extra nails unexpectedly. OSHA research has shown that multi-shot contact trigger nail guns cause more than twice as many injuries as single-shot sequential trigger nail guns. Workers can also suffer nail gun-related injuries if they are working too fast, have not been trained well enough, or are keeping the trigger squeezed when not nailing.
According to OSHA, there are certain steps employers and workers can take to make nail guns safer to use:
- Provide proper training: New and experienced workers alike can benefit from training about how nail guns work, how different types of triggers should be handled, the main causes of nail gun injuries (especially for each type of trigger), instructions in the tool manual and where the manual is kept, and hands-on training about how to load the nail gun, how to operate the air compressor, how to fire the nail gun, how to hold the lumber involved, and how to handle awkward position work.
- Use full sequential trigger nail guns: According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, contact trigger nailers are susceptible to double firing, especially when trying to accurately align the nail gun with the work piece. An unintended nail firing often happen faster than the worker is able to react and release the trigger, often resulting in injury. Double firing can be a serious problem for new workers trying to compensate for recoil, as well as when workers are forced to work in awkward positions or tight spaces. It is also possible for a nail to be released unexpectedly if the safety contact tip is accidentally knocked or pushed into an object or a person. The full sequential trigger is the safest mechanism for the job, as it reduces the risk of unintentional nail discharge and double
- Provide personal protective equipment: OSHA requires that construction workers wear safety shoes, which help protect the workers’ toes from nail gun injuries. Employers should also provide hard hats, eye protection, and hearing protection to workers using nail guns.
Establish nail gun work procedures:
- Contractors and supervisors should develop a comprehensive set of rules and procedures to make nail gun work as safe as possible. This includes checking tools and power sources before starting work, checking lumber surfaces for trouble spots, disconnecting the nail fun from compressed air when not in use, and set standards for awkward position jobs and jobs in high spaces.
- Encourage reporting and discussion of injuries and close calls: Many nail gun injuries go unreported. It is important for employers to put policies and practices in place that encourage reporting of injuries. This helps ensure that injured workers receive medical attention and helps contractors address safety risks that could lead to additional injuries if unaddressed.