Nail guns are one of the most widely used tools for woodworking projects in both professional and personal contexts. Their user-friendly and intuitive nature lets the user drive far more nails per hour than with a hammer alone. That convenience can obscure the fact that nail guns are still extremely dangerous tools. They must be used with both caution and confidence to ensure a job done both safely and well.
Every year, tens of thousands of nail gun-related injuries occur. It’s an all-too-common sight in emergency rooms to see someone come in with a nail through their hand, and these injuries are perfectly avoidable. With the help of our friends at Backyard Boss, we’re bringing you a basic rundown of nail gun safety today.
Different nail guns are available for different jobs, and it’s important to know which is right for you. The two main types of guns are electrically and pneumatically powered. Electric guns are the simplest and most common, although it’s important to check that any extension cord you use is rated for the same amperage that the gun needs. There are also cordless guns with rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Pneumatic guns use compressed air to propel the nail, and are significantly more powerful and less common.
A while back, OSHA and NIOSH developed an excellent nail gun safety handbook with six steps that employers can take to improve safety on their watch:
- Use nail guns with a full sequential trigger – This type of trigger will reduce the risk of unintentional nail discharge and double fire, which includes bumping into co-workers.
- Provide adequate training – Everyone benefits from training. Employers should provide hands-on training, including operation, loading the nail gun, air compressor operation, awkward positions, and what to do when a nail gun malfunctions.
- Establish work procedures – Creating a step-by-step procedure for handling, operating, and storing nail guns will make the workplace safe and reduce employee injuries.
- Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) – Workers should be provided and required to wear steel-toed boots, a hard hat, safety glasses that meet ANSI Z87.1 impact standards, and earplugs or earmuffs while operating a nail gun. You can find great options in our store.
- Encourage employees to discuss the importance of nail gun safety – employees should be active in making sure fellow employees are following proper nail gun operating procedures.
- Provide adequate first aid supplies and immediate medical treatment immediately following nail gun injuries.
They also offered some solid guidelines for what not to do when working with nail guns.
- Never bypass or disable nail gun safety features, including removing the spring from the safety-contact tip, or securing the trigger so it does not need to be pressed.
- Never keep your finger on the trigger when holding or carrying a nail gun that is not in use.
- Never lower the nail gun from above or drag it by the air hose.
- Never operate a nail gun with your non-dominant hand.
The design of some guns can unintentionally encourage dangerous habits to develop. It’s important to always be fully cognizant of your equipment and of how you interact with it, in the same way that you should think critically about your driving habits. Engaging thoughtfully with the tools you use every day is also a stepping stone to being more engaged with your environment more generally. Nail gun injuries are rarely fatal, but they are traumatic and potentially career-ending, so it’s vital to be alert and engaged.