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Construction Worker Guide to Nail Gun Safety

By Gerald Connor
Construction Worker Guide to Nail Gun Safety

Construction workers can help prevent work-related injuries and deaths involving nail guns by understanding why accidents happen and taking the appropriate safety precautions. Nail guns have largely replaced hammers on construction sites as a means of driving nails into wood, siding materials, and shingles. Unfortunately, nail gun injuries send approximately 37,000 people to the ER every year. Within the first four years of their training, the Occupational Safety Health Administration reports that two out of every five apprentice carpenters suffered a nail gun injury.

Common Causes of Nail Gun Injuries

Several factors contribute to construction accidents involving nail guns. OSHA reports that accidental discharges or misfires are responsible for two-thirds of all nail gun injuries resulting in workers’ compensation claims. In addition to double fires and other unintended discharges, some of the most common factors in nail gun accidents include:

  • Passing of the nail through the workpiece
  • Knocking the safety contact while pressing the trigger
  • Ricocheting off a hard surface
  • Nailing in awkward positions
  • Failing to make full contact with the workpiece

The nail gun injuries that occur as a result of these and other factors can often be prevented with some knowledge and care.

Following the Procedures for Nail Gun Work

Adhering to the established rules and protocols for using nail guns is essential for construction workers to help avoid serious occupational injuries. Such operations may include procedures for keeping workers out of the line of fire of nail guns in use, checking the lumber surface for issues that could lead to ricochets or recoils, and disconnecting the compressed air while nail guns are not in use or are moved from one area to another.

Knowing the Trigger

Trigger mechanisms play an essential role in nail gun safety. The trigger determines whether a nail gun can discharge multiple nails if squeezed and held in position or if workers must press and release the trigger for each nail. Nail gun triggers also determine how the safety controls must be activated to enable the tool to fire. Those with trigger types that allow bump firing or can have the safety controls activated in any order may be less safe than nail guns equipped with single-shot triggers.

Reporting Injuries

Workers should report nail gun injuries to their employers. Informing companies of occupational injuries can help identify previously unrecognized risks and provide opportunities to help improve worker safety moving forward.