Nail guns are used to fire nails into wood, masonry, and even steel. They have the capability of firing nails 10 cm into fully stressed concrete at velocities up to 1,400 feet per second. High velocity versions fire nails by detonating an explosive cartridge directly behind the barrel of the gun whereas lower velocity devices eject nails by activating a captive piston with compressed air or an explosive discharge.
While nail guns are becoming popular among construction workers, carpenters, and do-it-yourself weekend warriors, nail gun injuries are alarmingly on the rise. The number of nail gun injuries has nearly doubled from 2001 to 2006. And according to researchers at the Duke University Medical Center and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the number of weekend carpenters treated for nail gun injuries in emergency rooms each year in US hospitals has more than tripled from 1991 to 2005 to approximately 14,800.
While most injuries involve the hands, they also include injuries to the head, eyes, and back, and some have even resulted in death. Serious injuries may result from ricocheting nails or wood, through-and-through penetration by the nail, accidental discharge, unsafe operation of the nail gun, and falls resulting from firing the device. Some nails that are used have copper wire barbs that can fragment and penetrate skin, much as combat shrapnel does.
There are two main kinds of nail guns. The contact nail gun fires each time its nosepiece is depressed, whereas the sequential type must have its trigger released in order to fire. The sequential nail gun is generally considered to be safer. In addition to selecting a sequential nail gun over a contact one, the following are among safety precautions that should be taken:
- Choose a nail gun with a safety catch device
- Carefully read the manual before using
- Make sure you are properly trained in the nail gun’s use and maintenance
- Never point the nail gun at anyone, even when disconnected
- All those in the vicinity of a nail gun in use should wear safety glasses
- Display warning signs that a nail gun is being used in the area
- Disconnect the air hose when the nail gun is being serviced or when it is not in use
- Secure the air hose when working on scaffolding
- Do not operate the nail gun near flammable materials
If you are injured in a nail gun accident, you may have a personal injury claim based on negligence or intentional tort. If the accident was work related, you may have a worker’s compensation claim or, depending on the state in which the accident took place, a claim against a third party. A consultation with an experienced construction accident attorney can help you determine what kind of claim you may have and whether you are entitled to compensation.