Last updated on January 14th, 2021 at 07:58 am
The ease of driving nails into materials with nail guns have made it very desirable among contractors and consumers since 1959 when they were first introduced.
Without following the proper nail gun safety tips however, the tool itself can be quite lethal and serious injury can be sustained.
These injuries can occur in many ways which include:
Unintended nail discharge from double fire.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), contact triggers are the main cause of double firing, which can result in unintended nail discharge and possible injury to yourself or a coworker.
Unintended nail discharge which results from knocking the safety contact tip with the trigger squeezed.
This kind of accident usually occurs when using contact and single actuation triggers. With contact and single actuation triggers, if the finger trigger is squeezed, bumping the safety contact tip on anything, be it an object or a coworker will cause the nail gun to discharge a nail accidentally.
Penetration of the nail through the material
This kind of accident and possible injury occurs with all types of nail gun triggers. Nail guns can discharge nails at velocities up to 1400 feet per second which is enough to penetrate stressed concrete.
Because of this, when nailing a work piece, the nail can pass cleanly through the material and either hit the worker’s non-dominant hand or fly off into the air as a projectile. This kind of accident usually occurs when nailing close to a defect in the wood like a knot.
Nail ricochet after striking a hard surface or metal feature.
This type of nail gun accident and possible injury can occur with all nail gun trigger types. If a nail strikes a hard surface which it cannot penetrate, it ricochets off the surface and becomes airborne.
Causes of nail ricochets ranges from metal framing hardware, wood knots and even dense laminate beams.
Missing the work piece
If the safety contact tip does not make full contact with the work piece, the nail can discharge, become airborne and possibly cause injury.
This type of nail gun accident and possible injury occurs with all trigger types and is most likey to happen when nailing close to the edge of the work piece.
Nailing in an awkward position
If you’re nailing in an awkward position such as when you’re on a ladder, in tight quarters, above your shoulder height or to-nailing, the nail gun and its recoil becomes more difficult to control and this increases the risk of accident and injury.
Bypassing safety mechanisms
The risk of injuries with a nail gun increases even more when you bypass the safety mechanisms put in place by the manufacturer such as removing the spring from the safety contact tip.
No matter the type of trigger you using with your nailer, risk of injury is very high when you bypass or modify it to change the way it’s supposed to work.
Nail gun safety steps to follow
Nail gun safety rules and are meant to significantly reduce any form of accident and injuries when using a nail gun, so abiding by these rules and guidelines on and off the job site is very essential.
It’s like every other power tool you own. It needs to be respected. Respecting it means adhering to all safety measures put in place by the manufacturer and by safety and health administrations like OSHA.
If you own or are planning to get a wood nailer for your woodworking projects, here are the safety steps you need to abide by to prevent any form of accident and injury.
Here are some of the safety tips you need to follow in order to prevent any form of injury while using your nail gun, whether it’s a framing nailer, finish nailer or even a pin nailer.
Provide and engage in training
If you’re a contractor or employer and you have workers (especially new workers) working for you, make sure to provide necessary training on how to use the nail gun before allowing any worker to handle the tool.
Training new workers will educate them on how nail gun injuries occur and the necessary steps required to reduce them significantly or even eliminate them.
Also, make sure everyone is involved in the training. It should not be meant for new workers only, but also seasoned veterans who are already experienced in the trade.
Involving old or experience workers will remind them of the dangers of abusing the tool, ensuring that they continue following all safety procedures when it.
Choose the safest firing trigger
The trigger mechanism of a nailer allows you to fire or drive nails with it. Every nailers trigger mechanism relies on two basic controls that allow you to drive nails with the nailer.
The two controls include a finger trigger and a contact safety tip located at the nose of the nailer. Your nail gun’s trigger mechanism relies on the order in which you activate these two controls.
For safety reasons, if the controls are not activated in the right order, no nail will be dispatched from the nail gun. It will not fire.
Now, talking about trigger mechanisms, nail guns come with different types of triggers, and all differ based on the order in which the controls are activated.
Before going any further, here’s a nail gun trigger 101 lesson for you to learn about the four different types of triggers or trigger mechanisms that comes with nail guns.
Full sequential trigger
This is by far the safest trigger you can use when using a nail gun.
Using the sequential trigger requires the user to activate the controls in a particular order before a nail will be fired. To fire a nail, the user have to depress the contact tip, and pull the trigger. One nail will be fired when that is done. Pulling the trigger again at that state will not fire another nail.
To fire another nail, both the finger trigger and the compressed contact tip has to be release by lifting the nailer of the work surface, depressing it again on the surface then pulling the trigger again. It’s slower, but it’s safer, especially for workers or employees who are not very experienced yet.
Contact or bump trigger
This is the least safe method of driving a nail with a nail gun. When you activate this trigger mode, the nail gun will fire when the finger trigger control and the safety contact tip are activated in any order.
Whether you push the safety contact tip first and squeeze the finger trigger or you squeeze the finger trigger first and push the safety contact tip, the nail gun will fire.
To bump fire with this trigger, you just have to keep the trigger squeezed and push the safety contact tip against the material multiple times and a nail will be fired or driven-in each time you push it against the material.
This is very fast and allows you to drive multiple nails without following any sequence, but it’s the least safe triggers for nail guns.
Single sequential trigger
This is similar to the full sequential trigger because it requires the controls to be activated in a certain order before the nail gun will fire a nail.
However, the safety contact tip has to be pushed first before squeezing the finger trigger. To fire a second nail, the user can leave the safety contact tip pressed into the work piece or material, drag the nailer to another point and then release and squeeze the finger trigger to discharge another nail.
This single sequential trigger is also safer than the contact trigger.
Single actuation trigger
The single sequential trigger is similar to both the contact trigger and the single sequential trigger, but it’s different from them and should not be mistaken with them.
Just like the contact or bump trigger, the single actuation trigger will discharge a nail into the work piece when the safety contact tip control and the finger trigger control are activated in any order.
To fire a second nail, you can leave the safety contact tip compressed on the work piece with the trigger released, move or drag the nailer to another spot on the material and squeeze the trigger.
If you took note, it might seem that the single actuation trigger and the single sequential trigger are the same, but they’re not.
The difference is that with the single actuation trigger, the first nail can be bump fired, which is impossible with a single sequential trigger.
They’re similar but not the same.
With the 4 firing trigger mechanisms covered, according to OSHA, the number 1 step to stay safe while using a nail gun is to use the full sequential trigger which is the safest trigger mechanisms for nail guns.
This will ensure that the nailer only fires a nail when you want it to be fired. There’s very little risk of any accidental nail discharge when using the full sequential trigger, because the two trigger controls have to be activated in a certain order.
If they’re not activated in that order, namely compressing the safety contact tip and squeezing the finger trigger (repeating sequence to fire another nail), no nail will be discharged.
Disconnect a pneumatic nail gun from the air compressor and remove the battery of a cordless nailer when they’re not in use
For a pneumatic nailer to work, it has to be connected to an air compressor which provides the compressed air pressure for the nailer to fire. The nailer cannot fire without being connected to the air compressor.
This knowledge can be used to your advantage to keep the jobsite safe with a nail gun around. If the nailer is not in use, disconnect it right away from the air compressor. You should never leave it lying around connected to the air compressor.
This will ensure that any accidental pull of the trigger by an unsuspecting person or even you does not cause unnecessary harm to anyone.
Also, always disconnect the nailer from the air compressor if you have to clear jams from the nailer. You should never try to clear jams with the compressor attached. That will be very dangerous to you and other people around you.
Before clearing jams, disconnect the nailer from the air compressor, then you can open the nailer neck/tip to clear the jammed nail. You can reconnect the air compressor after the jam is cleared and you’re ready to work again.
It’s same with a battery powered or cordless nail gun. Remove the battery when you’re not using the tool. Keeping it lying around with the battery attached is very unsafe.
Report any injuries
Reporting any injury sustained in the jobsite is very important. First of all, to get medical attention. Second of all, which is equally very important is to educate others in the construction site about the cause of the injury and learn how to avoid a similar situation.
So, any worker who gets injured while using a nail gun should always report the injury to his employer or the contractor. If possible, after getting the necessary medical attention, he/she should come forward to narrate the incident to the rest of the employees so that they can learn and benefit from it. This will prevent other employees from repeating the same mistakes that lead to that injury.
Establish and enforce safety procedures for using a nail gun in the job site
There should be procedures for using any tool in the jobsite, especially dangerous ones like the nail guns. These procedures should be established and enforced to make the jobsite safe for everyone.
Some of these procedures include making sure the nail guns in the construction site are regularly serviced and are in good shape or working condition. If not they should be removed from service immediately.
Making sure nail gun manuals and instruction from the manufacturer are read and followed by every worker handling the nail gun.
Always disconnecting the nail gun from the compressor, when the nail gun is not in use, when clearing jammed nails from it, or when passing the nailer to a colleague.
Never climbing up or down a ladder with the nailer still connected to the compressor.
These are just some of the procedures for working with a nailer that must be enforced in every construction site making use of these tools.
Provide safety equipment
If you’re a contractor or an employer, you must provide personal protection equipment for your workers. This is one of the most important step to take if you’re using power tools in your jobsite.
So, provide your workers with hearing protection such as earplugs or earmuffs because nail guns can be very loud. Steel toe safety boots should be provided to protect the feet and toes and high impact safety glasses to protect the eyes.
Providing these equipment can go a long way to protect your workers from many of the possible injuries that may occur in the jobsite.
Every power tool can cause serious injury if the proper safety instructions for its operation is not followed diligently.
If you want to use any nailer whether pneumatic or cordless safely, you need to follow diligently, the simple and necessary safety tips which have been outlined in this article.
For further reading, you’ll find more information on this PDF by OSHA titled: Nail Gun Safety – A Guide for Construction Contractors.