Efficiency to Agony: The Hazard of Nail Guns on Construction Sites
Despite the fact that nail gun accidents cause serious injuries, no construction foreman would ban their use on a worksite. Nail guns are one of the many things that have made construction work easier. They save time; they save wear and tear on your arm (no more repetitive hammering), and they get the job done more consistently than the traditional hammer. They can also easily penetrate surfaces that are impossible for workers to hammer. Rather than breaking your back attempting to pound a nail through concrete, all you have to do is pull a trigger.
In other words, the efficiency of nail guns far outweighs the potential dangers…that is, in the eyes of employers.
Nail Gun Punctures and Injury Risks
Contractors and site managers often value speed over safety. In a rush to complete jobs faster, workers are encouraged to bypass safety precautions—precautions that would otherwise protect against traumatic and potentially fatal puncture wounds.
Many nail guns have “hair triggers,” which promote fast work, but often result in accidental “shootings.” With the ease of use, many workers have a tendency to forget that the operative word of nail gun is “gun.” Since they’re essential building tools, the similarities and dangers between nail guns and pistols are often ignored. Similarities like:
- Gun safety. A co-worker who is careless with a nail gun is just as dangerous as someone who is careless with a loaded firearm. If you think of all the damage that a bullet can do to a person, equal damage can be done with a nail gun.
- Firing force. Some nail guns use compressed air to drive nails, but others use an explosive charge (gunpowder). These nails travel just as fast as a bullet fired from the barrel of a gun.
- Penetration and ricochet ability. Another thing to consider is that nails shot from a nail gun can and will go through weaker surfaces like plywood, and they can and will ricochet. Again, in that respect, they are very much like bullets.
- Injury ability. Most nail gun injuries occur to the hand. A hand injury is far better than say a brain or spinal cord injury. However, you should consider that every person on a construction site depends on their hands to work. A nail driven into the hand can cause permanent nerve damage that can prevent you from getting back to work. There are also other injuries to the body to consider. Construction workers have suffered eye injuries, back injuries, head and brain injuries, soft tissue injuries, and even death. You can also consider that many types of nails have copper coatings, which can cause heavy metal poisoning.
Six Steps to Take to Protect Workers From Nail Gun Injuries
To educate contractors on the safest practices for nail gun use, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) produced a nail gun safety guide. The guide offers the following rules for nail gun safety:
- Use pressure-sensitive triggers. Nail guns are available with a variety of trigger types, but the full sequential trigger is the safest. A full sequential trigger requires the user to press the contact point into the intended surface before a nail can be released. The sequence must be repeated for a second nail to be released. With this type of trigger, an unintentional firing is nearly impossible.
- Provide extensive training. Many nail gun accidents happen to workers who have not been adequately trained. Providing comprehensive training to anyone who will be using a nail gun, including emergency aid protocol, is essential for worker safety.
- Establish nail gun work procedures. Safety protocols should be established in all worksites where nail guns are used. These plans should be readily accessible and workers should be required to follow them.
- Provide protective gear. Safety shoes, hard hats, eye protection, and ear protection should be supplied to all workers on a job site.
- Encourage communication of injuries. Workers should have support when reporting injuries or near-misses, and supervisors should assess the risk and make necessary changes in procedure.
- Provide first aid and medical care. Injuries that aren’t treated immediately can develop complications. Establishing an environment where workers feel safe reporting injuries and seeking medical care is vital to worker safety.
You would think that proper warnings and training would be par for the course for anyone who needs to handle a nail gun, but this isn’t always the case. Many workers are simply handed nail guns and told to “get to work” without training. Considering the damage that a nail gun can do, this is absurdly irresponsible.
Attorney Steve Lee makes it a point to offer dedicated and experienced legal counsel to injured workers. He has worked to protect construction workers long enough to know that accidents don’t “just happen,” as much as they’re caused by negligence. If you have been hurt by someone mishandling a nail gun, you may be eligible for compensation—and it doesn’t matter whether you’re a worker or a bystander. Use the quick contact box on this page to tell Steve Lee about your story, and we’ll follow up to offer you a FREE case consultation.