Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

Nail Gun Training


Studies of residential carpenters found the overall risk of nail gun injury is twice as high when using contact trigger nail guns compared to using sequential trigger nail guns. About 1 in 10 nail gun injuries 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.

Real World Accident

A carpenter apprentice on his first day ever using a nail gun injured his right leg. He was working on a step ladder and was in the process of lowering the nail gun to his side when the gun struck his leg and fired a nail into it. He had no training prior to using the nail gun. New worker training is important and should include hands-on skills.

This module takes a closer look at ways to protect yourself against nail gun injuries, such as the one in the accident above.

Worker Training


Both new and experienced workers can benefit from safety training to learn about the causes of nail gun injuries and specific steps to reduce them. Be sure the training is provided in an understandable way. Here is a list of topics for training:

  • Describe how nail guns work and how triggers differ.
  • List the main causes of injuries - especially differences among types of triggers.
  • Provide hands-on training with the actual nailers that will be used on the job. This gives each employee an opportunity to handle the nail and get feedback on the following issues:
    • how to load the nail gun
    • how to operate the air compressor
    • how to fire the nail gun
    • how to hold lumber during placement work
    • how to handle awkward position work
  • Describe what to do if a nail gun malfunctions.
  • Training should also cover items, such as company nail gun work procedures, personal protective equipment, injury reporting, and first aid and medical treatment.

Establish Nail Gun Work Procedures


Contractors should develop their own nail gun work rules and procedures to address risk factors and make the work as safe as possible. Examples of topics for contractor work procedures include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Make sure tool manuals for the nailers are always available on the job site.
  • Make sure manufacturers’ tool labels and instructions are understood and followed.
  • Check tools and power sources before operating to make sure they are working properly. Take broken or malfunctioning nail guns out of service immediately.
  • Set up operations so that workers are not in the line of fire from nail guns being operated by co-workers.
  • Check lumber surfaces before nailing. Look for knots, nails, straps, hangers, etc. that could cause recoil or ricochet.
  • Use a hammer or positive placement nailer when nailing metal joinery or irregular lumber.
  • For placement work, keep hands at least 12 inches away from the nailing point at all times. Consider using clamps to brace instead of your hands.
  • Always shoot nail guns away from your body and away from co-workers.

Establish Nail Gun Work Procedures (Continued)

Always disconnect the compressed air when:

  • leaving a nailer unattended
  • traveling up and down a ladder or stairs
  • passing the nail gun to a co-worker
  • clearing jammed nails
  • performing any other maintenance on the nail gun

Recognize the dangers of awkward position work and provide extra time and precautions:

  • Use a hammer if you cannot reach the work while holding the nailer with your dominant hand.
  • Use a hammer or full sequential trigger nailer when working in a tight space. Recoil is more difficult to control and double fires could occur with contact triggers.
  • Take extra care with toe-nailing. Nail guns can slip before or during firing because the gun cannot be held against the work piece. Use the trigger to fire ONLY after the safety contact piece is positioned.

Recognize the dangers of nail gun work at height and provide extra time and precautions:

  • Set up jobs to minimize the need for nailing at height.
  • Consider using scaffolds instead of ladders.
  • If work must be done on ladders, use full sequential trigger nailers to prevent nail gun injuries which could happen from bumping a leg while climbing up or down a ladder.
  • Position ladders so you don't have to reach too far. Your belt buckle should stay between the side rails when reaching to the side.

Things You Should Not Do With a Nail Gun

When you are using nail guns, NEVER bypass or disable the safety features. This is strictly prohibited. Tampering includes removing the spring from the safety-contact tip and/or tying down, taping or securing the trigger so it does not need to be pressed. Tampering increases the chance the nail gun will fire unintentionally both for the current user and anyone else who may use it.

Workers should keep their fingers off the trigger when holding or carrying a nail gun. If this is not natural, workers should use a full sequential nail gun or even set down the nailer until they need to use it again.

Worker using recommended PPE when working with nail guns: hard hat, safety glasses, and hearing protection.

Personal Protective Equipment

OSHA typically requires safety shoes, which help protect workers’ toes from nail gun injuries, on residential construction sites. Employers should also provide, at no cost to employees, the following protective equipment for workers using nail guns:

  • hard hats
  • high impact eye protection, such as safety glasses or goggles marked ANSI Z87.1
  • hearing protection (either earplugs or earmuffs)

Reporting of Injuries and Close Calls


Studies show many nail gun injuries go unreported. Employers should ensure their policies and practices only encourage their employees to report nail gun injuries. Reporting helps ensure employees get needed medical attention. It also helps contractors to identify unrecognized job site risks that could lead to more serious injuries, if not addressed.

First Aid and Medical Treatment

Employers and workers should get medical attention immediately after nail gun injuries. This includes for hand injuries which appear minimal. OSHA suggests 1 out of 4 nail gun hand injuries can involve some type of structural damage, such as a bone fracture. Materials such as nail strip glue or plastic or even clothing can get embedded in the injury and lead to infection. Barbs on the nail can cause secondary injury if the nail is removed incorrectly. These complications can be avoided by having workers seek immediate medical care.

Real World Accident

A construction worker accidentally drove a 16 penny framing nail into his thigh. It didn't bleed much and he didn't seek medical care. He removed the nail himself. Three days later he felt a snap in his leg and severe pain. In the emergency room, doctors removed a sheared off nail and found his thigh bone had fractured.

Not all nail gun injuries are immediately visible. Failure to seek medical care can result in complications and more serious injuries.


Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. Which of the following things should be discussed when training employees to use nail guns?

2. When do you need to take broken or malfunctioning nail guns out of service?

3. How can the barbs on a nail cause a secondary injury?

4. Which of the following is a recommended form of personal protective equipment when using nail guns?

5. When working at heights, consider using _____ instead of _____.

Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.