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Nail Gun Safety at the Workplace

Nail guns are easy to use, powerful tools.  But they can also be dangerous.  Nail gun injuries are most common on residential construction sites.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a report entitled “Nailing Down the Need for Nail Gun Safety.”  Nail guns can greatly increase productivity by quickly and efficiently performing nailing tasks.  However, nail guns cause tens of thousands of injuries each year.

While nail guns are easy to operate and are very powerful, they are also responsible for approximately 37,000 emergency room visits every year.  Of those accidents, 32 percent involve consumers and, perhaps more worrisome, 68 percent involve workers.  In some extreme cases, workers have died as a result of nail gun injuries.  Employers can take steps to reduce the likelihood that a worker will be injured by a nail gun.  For example, the risk of injury is twice as high for workers using a “contact” trigger nail gun when compared with workers using “sequential” trigger nail guns.  A contact trigger allows the nail gun to discharge nails any time both the nose of the gun and the trigger are depressed.  Sequential triggers, on the other hand, only discharge nails when the nose of the gun is depressed before the trigger is pulled.

What can Employers Do to Prevent Nail Gun Injuries?

There are a number of steps employers can take to lower the risk of nail gun injuries.  These include:

  • Provide employees with proper training;
  • Make sure training and operational manuals are available at the jobsite;
  • Provide employees with proper personal protective equipment (PPE) (this includes safety shoes);
  • Provide employees nail guns equipped with full sequential triggers, as full sequential triggers are the safest triggers – sequential triggers help prevent accidental discharge and double firing;
  • Have workplace nail gun procedures in place;
  • Do not allow the use of broken nail guns;
  • Prohibit workers from using a nail gun with their non-dominant hand;
  • Encourage employees to discuss and report any injuries or close calls;
  • Use injuries and close calls as “teachable moments”; and
  • Provide workers with any necessary medical treatment, including first aid.

How Do Nail Gun Injuries Occur?

There are a number of common nail gun injuries.  These include:

  • When a nail goes right through a lumber workpiece – this can occur with all trigger types;
  • Accidental discharge as a result of a double fire (a double fire occurs when a second firing happens faster than the worker reacts and releases the trigger – this frequently occurs when a new employee pushed too hard, anticipating a recoil, but it also occurs with contact triggers);
  • An employee missing the intended target, which can occur with all trigger types;
  • Accidental nail firing that occurs when the safety contact is knocked into with the trigger squeezed, which can also occur with all trigger types;
  • When a worker is attempting to nail while in an awkward position;
  • When a nail ricochets after striking metal or some other hard surface;
  • When workers avoid safety mechanisms (modifying nail guns to avoid safety mechanisms is never a good idea and should never be done; and
  • Nail guns must be maintained in proper working order.

How Common are Nail Gun Injuries?

A study of apprentice carpenters found that:

  • 40 percent of the apprentices were injured while using a nail gun during their four years of training;
  • 20 percent of the apprentices were injured twice; and
  • 10 percent of the apprentices reported being injured three or more times.

More than half of the injuries occurred to the hands and fingers.

What are Some Examples of Nail Gun Accidents?

Employee accidents frequently occur when one employee accidentally bumps into another employee.  For example, one employee is holding a nail gun with his finger on the contact trigger.  If he is bumped into by a coworker he risks accidental nail firing.  This has prompted some contractors to switch to only full sequential trigger nail guns.

Recently, a contractor in New Jersey switched to only sequential triggers.  He did this after his crews experienced serious nail gun injuries caused by double fires.  He believes that the switch has eliminated the risk of double fire injuries.  Because of the hours saved in injuries and training replacement workers, he does not believe it has caused a significant decrease in productivity.

Nail guns have as much power as firearms and need to be treated with the same level of respect.  Always wear a hard hat and protective goggles.  The sequential triggers require workers to push the safety tip against the wood prior to pulling the trigger to discharge a single nail.  This type of trigger may require a bit more skill and time, but they also eliminate common causes of accidents.  Workers should never remove or disable any safety features on their nail gun.  Additionally, workers need to know the type of trigger their nail gun has.  Workers need to keep their free hand  (the one not holding the nail gun) and away from what he or she is nailing.  A distance of at least 12 inches is ideal.  Workers need to hold and carry the nail gun with their fingers off the trigger.  Any nail jams should only be cleared after the hose is disconnected.

Nail gun injuries can range from the type of injury that requires on site first aid, to serious hospitalizations.  Both workers and employers have an obligation to exercise due care with regards to nail guns.

If You Have Been Injured on a Construction Site

The ways one can sustain injury on a construction site are limited only by one’s imagination.  The skilled Atlanta workers’ compensation legal team at The Bader Firm, LLC have represented countless construction workers who have been injured on the job.  A lawsuit can both make you whole, and bring greater levels of safety to the workplace in the future.  Let us focus on your claim, while you focus on healing from your injury.  Contact our firm to discuss your case with one of our attorneys at no charge.  In fact, we only charge you if your case is successful.

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Seth Bader
(678) 562-5595