Nail Gun Safety

The majority of workers involved with wood construction use one of the many air powered nailers available on the market. Since their introduction in the 1950’s, “nail guns” have improved the speed and productivity of anyone who drives nails for a living. They have also exposed carpenters and builders to risks that the old hammer and nail never did. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports an estimated 37,000 emergency room visits per year due to nail gun injuries; 68% are occupational-related, while the remaining 32% involve consumers. Most injuries involve puncture wounds to fingers, hands, and feet. However, many well documented cases have resulted in eye injuries, damage to internal organs, and puncture wounds to the brain.

Every nail gun purchased comes with an owner’s manual from the manufacturer. There is also a safety warning sticker prominently displayed on the tool; both of these list safeand unsafework procedures.

Some of these safety tips include the following:

  • Read the owner’s manual and use it for training.
  • Wear safety glasses and be sure anyone in the work area is wearing them as well.
  • Use appropriate personal protective equipment as needed.
  • Keep the tool pointed away from yourself and others.
  • Keep hands, feet and other body parts away from the muzzle of the tool.
  • Disconnect the air hose when clearing jams, doing maintenance or when handing the tool to another worker.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger except when nailing. A sequential trigger (requiring the gun nose to be depressed before the trigger will fire a nail) is safer than a contact trigger.
  • Hold the tool firmly onto the work surface to avoid a recoil kick-back and double firing.
  • Avoid nailing into knots or other fasteners.

As a reminder, pneumatic tools and compressors are regulated under OSHA’s Construction standard at 29 CFR 1926.302(b).

Further information can be found here: OSHA Nail Gun Safety Publication and Sounding the Alarm on Dangerous Nail Guns.

Nail gun injuries are painful, can cause serious injury or death, and can be prevented.


Posted by Bruce Small