Pneumatic nail guns are easy to use, and can significantly reduce work time, but they are also deadly weapons. Driven by compressed air, they can blast upwards of 30 nails a minute at speeds of 490 feet per second. According to a 2007 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a large number of those nails not only find their way into the heads, hands, and necks of the employees who use nail guns, but also those of their co-workers.
The lead author of the research, Dr. Hester Lipscomb, an epidemiologist from Duke University in North Carolina, studied data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System about reported nail gun injuries from 1995 to 2005. Her findings reveal that the number of persons with nail gun injuries seeking treatment in hospital emergency rooms increased from about 12,000 in 1995 to roughly 42,000 in 2005. Lipscomb said the data highlighted the need for better training, and an increased awareness that nail guns must be treated just like any other loaded weapon.
To help workers use nail guns safely, The National Association of Home Builders has established the following guidelines:
- Inspect the tool before each use.
- Wear safety glasses, a hardhat and appropriate hearing protection whenever you use a nail gun.
- Keep guards and other safety devices on nail guns working in accordance with the manufacturers’ recommendations.
- Never carry the tool with your finger on or under the trigger; always remove your finger from the trigger when not driving nails or fasteners.
- Use the nail gun as directed. For example, with a pneumatic nail gun, you should first contact the surface, and then squeeze the trigger. “Bumping” or “bouncing” the nail gun against the work surface with the trigger engaged could cause the nail gun to go off when it hits something else by accident, like your leg.
- Drive nails/fasteners into the work surface only, never into materials that are too hard to penetrate.
- Do not drive nails/fasteners close to the edge of the work surface, on top of other nails/fasteners, or with the tool at too steep an angle. This could cause the nails/fasteners to ricochet and hurt someone.
- Never point the tool at yourself or others in the work area.
- Keep your hands and feet away from the firing head during use.
- Remove all nails/fasteners from the tool before connecting it to the air compressor and do not exceed the manufacturers’ recommended working air pressure rating.
- Fasten the air hose securely to the tool to prevent it from becoming disconnected.
- Disconnect the air before clearing jams, performing maintenance, leaving the work area, or moving the tool to another location.