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Toolbox Talk: Hammer Home Nail Gun Safety

Pneumatic nail guns are fast and easy to use and have commonly replaced hammers as the tool of choice on residential construction job sites, but they have also created new safety hazards.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hospital emergency departments treated 26,900 workers for nail gun-related injuries in 2005.

Eighty-seven percent of worker emergency room nail gun injuries are puncture wounds or open wounds with an embedded object. Workers can get hit by the nail or fastener, one of the tool’s attachments, or by flying wood or concrete chips. It is also common for a nail to go through the construction material into the injured person.

Nail gun accidents are easily prevented, however, if employers and workers learn and practice proper nail gun use. Most injuries occur because of how the tool is used, not the tool itself.

Discussion with workers of the following quick tips for using nail guns safely can help reduce the risk of certain nail gun injuries:

  • Only operate a nail gun if you have been properly trained to do so, and read the manufacturers instructions and warnings first.

  • Inspect the tool before each use.

  • Always wear safety glasses, a hard hat and appropriate hearing protection.

  • Keep guards and other safety devices on nail guns working in accordance with the manufacturers’ recommendations.

  • Always assume that the nail gun is loaded and contains fasteners.

  • Never carry the tool with your finger on or under the trigger; always remove your finger from the trigger when not driving nails or fasteners.

  • Use the nail gun as directed. For example, with a pneumatic nail gun, you should first contact the surface, and then squeeze the trigger. “Bumping” or “bouncing” the nail gun against the work surface with the trigger engaged could cause the nail gun to go off when it hits something else by accident, like your leg.

  • Drive nails/fasteners into the work surface only, never into materials that are too hard to penetrate.

  • Do not drive nails/fasteners close to the edge of the work surface, on top of other nails/fasteners or with the tool at too steep an angle, which could cause the nails/fasteners to ricochet and hurt someone.

  • Never point the tool at yourself or others in the work area and keep hands and feet away from the firing head during use.

  • Remove all nails/fasteners from the tool before connecting it to the air compressor and do not exceed the manufacturers’ recommended working air pressure rating.

  • Securely fasten the air hose to the tool to prevent it from becoming disconnected.

  • Disconnect the air before clearing jams, performing maintenance, leaving the work area or moving the tool to another location.

The complete NAHB Toolbox Safety Talks manual, in English and Spanish, as well as other safety resources such as the NAHB Home Builders' Safety Program, are available through BuilderBooks.com or by calling 800-223-2665.

For more information, e-mail Robert Matuga at NAHB, or call him at 800-368-5242 x8507.

NAHB Toolbox Safety Talks are designed to supplement employee safety training programs and help identify areas where additional employee safety training may need to be developed.

Each individual talk is intended to provide a brief job-site training session of approximately 15 minutes. Each talk should include questions that encourage employees to share their experiences, which can make the reality of injuries more vivid and provide a clearer safety message.

‘Toolbox Safety Talks’ Available at BuilderBooks.com

Toolbox Safety Talks, English-Spanish,” available through BuilderBooks.com, includes 52 safety talks — one for each week of the year — in both English and Spanish on topics including electrical, scaffold safety, fall protection, proper excavation/trenching and more.

To view or purchase this publication online, click here, or call 800-223-2665.

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