Nail gun safety for homeowner-remodelers

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ January 15, 2012

The most-famous motto for all contractors and DIY handymen/women is "measure twice, cut once". I'd prefer to move the phrase, "work safe, work smart" to the top of the slogan list. A report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) cites 37,000 emergency room visits a year to treat catastrophic injuries caused by nail guns. Just under half of the emergency visits are made by non-professional weekend warriors who are working on home improvement projects.

Photo by Kaj R. Svensson

There's no law that says you have to be a contractor to own a nail nun that fires projectiles with the equivalent force of a .22 handgun. The most impressive nail gun safety video you need to see is Lethal Weapon II where Danny Glover nails a criminal with a framing gun. Tools are only as safe as the safety measures employed by the people who use them.

Working carpenters sometimes ignore safety procedures or choose to bypass optional tool safety mechanisms for the sake of speeding up their work. They rig the trigger so it's always depressed so they just have to bump it against the surface. Unfortunately, the gun doesn't discriminate whether the surface is dry wall or your thigh.

Nail guns for the home or job

Last year, The Boston University School of Management honored a team of students who developed a Smart Halt nail gun with a firing mechanism that automatically disconnects when it comes in contact with skin. So far, I haven't seen such a product on the market. What I do see are air-based guns made at professional grade (instant fire) and two-step guns (requiring depressing the trigger and tapping the barrel against the nailing surface.

The most-common, air-powered tools on the market are stick-type nail guns, holding up to 40 nails at a time, and coil-type nail guns, loading up with as many as 300 nails in a canister.

Types of nail guns include framing guns (for dense material work, or installing vinyl siding, finishing guns, brad nailers and roofing guns.

Nail gun safety

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration is a great resource. I heartily recommend that you download their online brochure, Nail Gun Safety: A Guide for Construction Contractors.

Don't wince at these common-sense tips, either:

•Always wear safety glasses. •Remove your finger from the trigger area after you fire a nail. •Use sequential firing guns and do not disable any features. •Clear the room of additional workers and, especially, to not allow anyone to stand behind a surface that you're nailing.

Work safe, work smart!

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