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Nail guns are efficient and convenient to use.  However, they’re also sending users to the emergency room.  According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, 37,000 people each year are treated for nail-gun injuries, with foot and hand punctures being the most common.

While construction workers account for just over half of these injuries, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Advisory Committee for Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH) believes building-trade guidance in the use of nail guns is overdue.

Matt Gillen, Deputy Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has stated:  “With no standard other than the one on air-compressor tools in general, there’s a real information gap regarding the safe use of nail guns.”

CDC and NIOSH are bridging the gap with “Nail Gun Safety: A Guide for Construction Contractors.” Developed over the past year with the input of researchers, tool manufacturers and safety and health professionals, the Guide provides contractors with details on the causes of nail injuries and offers advice for prevention.

Consultants recommend the use of sequential triggers instead of contact triggers.  A sequential trigger fires a nail only when the gun’s controls—usually a safety tip and trigger—are activated in a certain order.  Because a contact trigger fires in any order, it is susceptible to “bump-firing” and double firing, especially when users are trying to place the nail gun accurately against the work piece.  This dangerous practice has been found to double the risk of injury compared with full-sequential type triggers.  “The full-sequential trigger is the safest one to use in most situations, especially for framing and other tasks where pieces need to be held together by hand,” Gillen said.

The guide can be found online at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2011-202/. It is likely plaintiffs’ counsel will use the guide as a benchmark of good custom and practice in the residential construction industry in those circumstances where workers are injured and they and/or their employer are not following the practices suggested in the guide.