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The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently published an illustrated safety guide to remind employers and workers to take caution when working with nail guns. The guidance is directed at residential home builders and construction contractors.
Nail guns are used every day, especially in residential construction. They boost productivity but also cause tens of thousands of painful injuries each year. NIOSH reported that two out of five residential carpenter apprentices suffer a nail gun injury during their four-year training period.
These tools can shoot a three-inch nail more than 100 miles per hour and cause serious damage to hands and fingers. One-quarter of these hand injuries involve structural damage to tendons, joints, nerves and bones. After the hand, the next most often injured body parts are the leg, knee, thigh, foot and toes. Severe nail gun injuries have resulted in paralysis, blindness, brain damage, bone fractures and death.
Know Your Triggers
Nail gun safety starts with understanding the various trigger mechanisms.
All guns have two basic controls: a finger trigger and a contact safety tip located on the nose of the gun. Trigger mechanisms can vary based on the order in which the controls are activated and whether the trigger can be held in the squeezed position to discharge multiple nails or if it must be released and then squeezed again for each individual nail. Some nail guns have a selective trigger switch that allows the user to choose between two or more trigger systems.
You can squeeze the trigger on bump-fire or automatic nail guns before you push in the safety tip, allowing the firing of multiple nails as you bump or bounce the tool along the work object, which may cause you to shoot a nail accidentally.
“The safer gun forces you to push the safety tip against the wood and then pull the trigger to shoot one nail,” the guidance states. Called a sequential-trigger gun, this type forces the user to release and activate both the safety contact tip and the trigger again to fire a second nail. “It takes a little more skill, but there’s very little chance of shooting a nail by accident.”
Know the Risks
Understanding the major risk factors that can lead to nail gun injuries will help you prevent them on your jobsites. Injuries commonly occur when:
Steps to Prevent Injuries
The guidance lays out steps that contractors can take to prevent injuries:
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
Follow him on Twitter @SHRMRoy.
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