Studies of residential carpenters found the overall risk of nail gun injury is twice as high when using contact firing 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.
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.
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:
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:
Always disconnect the compressed air when:
Recognize the dangers of awkward position work and provide extra time and precautions:
Recognize the dangers of nail gun work at height and provide extra time and precautions:
When you are using nail guns, NEVER bypass or disable the safety features. Employers must strictly prohibit this practice. 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.
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:
Gloves are not recommended for use as PPE because it's more difficult to use the nail gun and fingers may get caught or injured.
Studies show many nail gun injuries go unreported. Employers should ensure their policies and practices only encourage their employees to report nail gun injuries. Employees should never reprimanded for reporting 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.
Employers and workers should get medical attention immediately after nail gun injuries, even if they appear to be minor. 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.
Not all nail gun injuries are immediately visible. Failure to seek medical care can result in complications and more serious injuries. Below are a few real-world stories that illustrate what can happen while working with nail guns. Telling stories like this is an excellent way to instruct employees on the dangers of nail gun use.
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.
Two framers were working together to lay down and nail a subfloor. One framer was waiting and holding the nail gun with his finger on the contact trigger. The other framer was walking backwards toward him and dragging a sheet of plywood. The framer handling the plywood backed into the tip of the nail gun and was shot in the back. The nail nicked his kidney, but fortunately he recovered. As a result of this incident, the contractor switched to using only sequential triggers on framing nail guns. Co-workers can get injured if they bump into your contact trigger nail gun. You can prevent this by using a full sequential trigger.
After his crews experienced many double fires and a related serious nail gun injury, a New Jersey contractor switched to using only sequential triggers. He believes he has eliminated the risk of double fire injuries and he estimates that the change has had only a slight impact on productivity—a few extra hours per house.
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