Nail guns are professional power tools, and they can be quite dangerous if not used correctly. The average nail gun can completely drive a 90mm nail into timber, in just 1/10th of a second. If your hand is in the way when this happens, you’re in big trouble.
The most common injuries caused by nail guns, are to hands and fingers. This happens when a nail deflects out of the timber into the users’ hands. This is the most common injury in my experience.
In the past I have personally injured myself with both finishing and framing guns. As well as witnessed other people doing the same.
The main reason that injuries happen, is the user is holding timber too close to the nailer.
For example, let’s assume you are building a stud wall on the floor and nailing through the base plate into the studs. When doing this, you will hold the stud in position whilst you nail. However, you should ensure your hand is well back.
The most common injury in this scenario is the nail hitting a knot and deflecting. This can cause the nail to shoot out of the side of the timber. If you’re holding too close, the nail can go straight into your hand.
Another common injury is to eyes. This mainly happens when the nail gun is fired into a surface and fragments splinter off.
For this reason, it is always recommended that you wear safety goggles when firing a nail gun. If you decide not too, it is just a matter of time before you end up with something in your eye.
Nail gun accident example # 1
The main injury that I received when using a nail gun, was from a cordless first fix nail gun (Paslode). This happened when I was fitting noggins in a stud wall as an apprentice.
The frame had a section with a slight corner that required a small, angled noggin. This required me to hold and push the timber in place as I nailed. When I fired the nail, it hit a big knot and burst out of the side of the noggin.
As the nail came out, it split the noggin and completely exited the wood straight into my finger. The nail was a 90mm framing nail and it entered just below the knuckle on my right middle finger. It then exited just above my knuckle.
Thankfully this injury was just under the skin, and it didn’t cause any serious damage. However, I had a nail sat on top of my knuckle, under around 20mm of skin. This needed pulling out manually, which was made even worse, by another apprentice who thought the whole incident was hilarious.
Nail gun accident example #2
The second example was my boss. This was also an injury acquired whilst doing studwork. My boss had built two stud walls, these were going to be connected, in order to span a longer distance.
To connect the two stud walls together, he positioned them end to end, and proceeded to nail them together.
The timber was a planed 3×2 and the nails were 90mm framing nails. This meant that the nails were coming through the other side by about 10-15mm.
Halfway down, he nailed through the studs and straight into the palm of his hand.
After about ten minutes his hand began to swell considerably, and he was taken down to A&E. Apparently, he had an allergic reaction to the coating on the end of the nails. This was the reason his hand was so swollen.
Obviously, these 2 examples are anecdotal. However, I know many more people (particularly joiners) that have had similar injuries.
Also, according to US based statistic company BMJ Injury Prevention, 14% of accidents involving carpenters involved a nail gun.
Are any other tools more dangerous than nail guns?
In the construction industry there are a lot of dangerous tools and machinery. This includes things like:
- Chop saws
- Chain saws
- Circular saws
- Stihl saws
- Table saws
- Ladders and scaffolding – Falls from height is the biggest cause of death in construction
- Diggers and other plant machinery – Being struck by machines is the second biggest cause of death.
As you can see, there are a lot of saws in this list. Any of these, can, and do cause serious injury. For power tools it is hard to say which is the most dangerous. But nail guns and various power saws are certainly up there. They all need treating with respect.
However, even though serious injury is possible, it is far less likely for one of these power tools to cause death. With this in mind, falls from height and heavy building site machinery, are actually far more dangerous.
Nail guns are definitely dangerous when they are not handled with care and used correctly. You should always observe health and safety when using a nail gun. This includes common sense things, such as keeping your hands well away from the nail gun. As well as using the appropriate PPE for the job.
Whilst nail guns can be dangerous, they are certainly not the only things that can cause harm in construction. As a whole, construction is a dangerous profession. Serious injury and even death can occur if care is not taken.