safetylinks_nail gun safety

Nail guns are used every day on many construction jobs.  They boost productivity but also cause tens of thousands of serious injuries each year. Nail gun injuries are common—one study found that 2 out of 5 residential carpenter apprentices experienced a nail gun injury over a four-year period.  Injuries from use of nail guns hospitalize more construction workers than any other tool-related injury.  Research has also found that the risk of a nail gun injury is twice as high when using a multi-shot contact trigger as opposed to using a single-shot sequential trigger nail gun.

Furthermore, studies have shown that training in the proper use of the nail gun being used is essential in reducing the likelihood of injury.  Since training is usually not required for operating a nail gun, it may be a challenge to find.  You can contact your local community college or hardware retailer about training they may provide.  Training by an experienced user can also be helpful.  At the very least, read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions and follow the precautions listed below.

Safety Tips for Nail Gun Operation:

  • Use only a nail gun with a sequential trigger mechanism.  NOTE:  Appearance alone won’t tell you if the gun you are using is equipped with a contact or sequential trigger.  Both triggers look the same, but operate differently.  With sequential nail guns, the tool will fire only one nail when pulling the trigger.  With a gun equipped with a contact trigger, if you keep the trigger pulled while pushing the gun against a surface, the gun will continue to fire.  Using a sequential nail gun will reduce incidence of injuries without affecting speed of operation.
  • Never aim or fire the gun towards you or anyone near you.
  • Do not press the trigger unless the nose of the gun—the contact element—is pressed firmly against the work material.
  • Don’t ever hold your finger near the trigger when carrying the nail gun, even though the trigger is the tool’s center of gravity.
  • Clear jams, load/unload and adjust the nail gun only when it is disconnected from the air supply.
  • Avoid nailing into knows or metal since nails are more likely to ricochet.  Dense materials such as laminated beams are also difficult to nail.
  • Don’t remove or bypass safety devices, triggers or contact springs.
  • If a nail gun is not working correctly, tag it and take it out of service.  Defective tools are dangerous.
  • When operating a nail gun, keep as much distance as you can between your free hand and the nail gun.
  • When climbing or descending a ladder, put some distance between you and the nail gun.  Point the nose of the tool away from you and others and don’t drop it by the air hose.
  • When attaching the nail gun to the air supply, pull the collar back on the air hose while pointing the front of the nail gun away from you and others.  Push down, then release the collar.  Wear your personal protective equipment not just when operating the nail gun but when attaching the gun to the compressor.  Place the gun in front of you on a work surface or the ground to give you more leverage.

Remember, injuries resulting from nail gun use hospitalize more construction workers than any other tool.  Be safe and don’t get nailed!

If you would like more information on nail gun safety, contact Trevor Reschny at 800-788-7036 or email him at