A nail gun can be dangerous if it malfunctions or isn’t used correctly and in a safe manner. Types of nail guns vary based on how they’re powered, the gauge of the nail they fire, and the projects for which they are used. If a nail gun is used incorrectly or is defective, a worker can become catastrophically or even fatally injured. Nail guns are responsible for about 37,000 emergency room visits each year. Approximately 60% of cases involve workers. In 77.7% of nail gun accidents, the nail gun operator is the injury victim. Bystanders and co-workers are injured 22.2% of the time.
Causes of Nail Gun Accidents
Several risk factors can lead to nail gun accidents. A primary factor is the firing mechanism, which is based on the type of gun. The risk of injury is twice as high using a nail gun with a bump or contact trip trigger compared to one with a single shot or full sequential trigger.
Common causes of nail gun accidents include:
- Accidental double fire: Contact nail triggers can fire unexpectedly, especially if used by an improperly trained operator.
- Nail gun blowout: This occurs when the nail hits a knot in a piece of lumber and flies off in another direction, often airborne.
- Bumping the safety contact: The gun can fire one or several nails if the user holds down the trigger and the safety contact is bumped.
- Awkward Position Nailing: Working below knee level, above shoulder height, or from an elevated platform can make nailing mistakes more likely.
- Misses: A nail that misses the workpiece can become airborne, endangering workers who are working with or near the nail gun.
- Nail ricochet off a hard surface: This can occur when working with metal surfaces or dense materials. A nail that ricochets after striking a hard surface can land in the next convenient object.
Common Types of Nail Gun Injuries
With firing speeds of up to 1,400 feet per second, nail guns can easily drive a nail through human flesh and bone. Over 50% of nail gun injuries are puncture wounds to the fingers, wrist, or hand. These injuries can damage the nerves, bones, tendons, and joints. Lower extremities such as the knee, foot, thigh, and leg are the second most common type of body part injured in nail gun accidents. Serious nail gun injuries have resulted in bone fractures, brain damage, eye injuries, paralysis, and even death.
Nail gun safety training and adherence to safety standards set by OSHA and NIOSH are essential for all workers on the job site.