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Loss Control Insights

Six Steps to Nail Gun Safety

Nail guns are the cause of an estimated 37,000 emergency room visits each year

Nail guns can increase productivity in the workplace but can also cause an estimated 37,000 emergency room visits each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sixty-eight percent of these visits involve workers.

EMC Senior Risk Improvement Consultant Tammy Swenson is aware of the problem. “One worker recently told me about hearing nails ricocheting off steel beams above his head,” explains Tammy, who encourages workers to survey their surroundings for potential dangers before using nail guns. Tammy is also quick to advise workers to never tamper or override safety features on guns to make them work faster. “Faster is rarely safer,” she states.

A National Institute for Occupational and Health (NIOSH) report, “Nail Gun Safety: A Guide for Construction Contractors,” outlines six additional nail gun safety tips.

  1. Use the Full Sequential Trigger

    This trigger mechanism reduces the risk of unintentional nail discharge and double fires. Studies of residential carpenters found that the overall risk of nail gun injury is twice as high when using contact trigger nail guns compared to using sequential trigger guns.

  2. Provide Training

    Both new and experienced workers can benefit from safety training on the causes of nail gun injuries and how to prevent them. Some of the topics to cover include:

    • Primary causes of injuries
    • How triggers differ and how to understand manufacturers’ tool manuals
    • Proper use of personal protective equipment
    • Injury reporting
    • First aid and medical treatment

    It’s also recommended to coordinate hands-on training with the actual nailers used on the job.

  3. Establish Nail Gun Work Procedures

    These procedures should include:

    • Checking tools and power sources before operating a nail gun
    • Keeping hands at least 12 inches away from the nailing point at all times
    • Always disconnecting the compressed air when leaving a nailer unattended, climbing a ladder or stairs or passing the gun to a coworker
    • Never bypassing or disabling safety features
    • Never using the nailer with the nondominant hand
  4. Provide Personal Protective Equipment

    Safety shoes, which help protect workers’ toes from nail gun injuries, are typically required by OSHA on residential construction sites. Other protective equipment includes hard hats, high-impact eye protection and hearing protection.

  5. Encourage Reporting and Discussion of Injuries and Close Calls

    Reporting helps ensure that employees get medical attention. It also helps identify unrecognized hazards that could lead to additional injuries if not addressed.

  6. Provide First Aid and Medical Treatment

    Employers and workers should seek medical attention after nail gun injuries, even for those that appear to be minimal. Studies suggest that one out of four nail gun hand injuries involve some type of structural damage to the body such as a bone fracture.

Check out these EMC resources for more information:
Pneumatic Tool Safety Tech Sheet

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