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Make Nail Tool Safety a Priority

Nail tools are used every day on many construction jobs. These tools boost productivity but also cause thousands of serious injuries each year. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website, one study found that two out of five residential carpenter apprentices experienced a nail tool (gun) injury over a four-year period.

Injuries resulting from use of nail tools hospitalize more construction workers than any other tool-related injury.

Therefore, nail tool safety must be a priority for everyone who uses these products.

“When nail gun injuries do occur, they are often not reported or given proper medical treatment. Research has identified the risk of a nail gun injury is twice as high when using a multi-shot contact trigger as when using a single-shot sequential trigger nailer,” according to the OSHA website.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, "Nail guns are powerful.... They are responsible for an estimated 37,000 emergency room visits each year — 68% of these involve workers."

The Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to comply with safety and health standards and regulations promulgated by OSHA or by a state with an OSHA-approved state plan. In addition, the Act’s General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1), requires employers to provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm.

Research has identified the risk factors that make nail tool injuries more likely to occur include the type of trigger system and the extent of training.

The risk of a nail tool injury is twice as high when using a multi-shot contact trigger as when using a single-shot sequential trigger nailer.

How do Nail Tool Injuries Happen?

According to OSHA, there are seven major risk factors that can lead to nail tool injury:

  1. Unintended nail discharge from double fire occurs with CONTACT triggers.
  2. Unintended nail discharge from knocking the safety contact with the trigger squeezed occurs with CONTACT- and SINGLE-ACTUATION triggers.
  3. Nail penetration through lumber work piece occurs with ALL trigger types.
  4. Nail ricochet after striking a hard surface or metal feature occurs with ALL trigger types.
  5. Missing the work piece occurs with ALL trigger types.
  6. Awkward position nailing occurs with ALL trigger types.
  7. Bypassing safety mechanisms occurs with ALL trigger types.

Six Steps to Nail Tool Safety:

  1. Use the full-sequential trigger. The full-sequential trigger is the safest trigger mechanism for the job. It reduces the risk of unintentional nail discharge and double fires—including injuries from bumping into co-workers.
  2. Provide Training. New and experienced workers can benefit from safety training to learn about the causes of nail tool injuries and specific steps to reduce them.
  3. Establish nail tool work procedures. Contractors should develop their own nail tool work rules and procedures to address risk factors and make the work as safe as possible and should include lists of specific do’s and don’ts.
  4. Provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Safety shoes, which help protect workers’ toes from nail tool injuries, are typically required by OSHA on residential construction sites. In addition, according to osha.gov, employers should provide, at no cost to employees, hard hats, high-impact eye protection (safety glasses or goggles marked ANSI Z87.1), and hearing protection for workers using nail guns.
  5. Encourage reporting and discussion of injuries and close calls because many nail tool injuries are not reported.
  6. Lastly, provide first aid and medical treatment- even for injuries that seem to be minor.

Additional information can be found at www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/woodworking/production_handheldstaplegun.html or contact OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) or TTY: 1-877-889-5627 or go to www.osha.gov.