OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health have teamed up to produce recommendations for employers to prevent these injuries. While the evidence-based guidance is not a standard or regulation, it includes descriptions of mandatory safety and health standards and other regulatory requirements.
Nail gun injuries typically involve the hands and fingers and result in structural damage to tendons, joints, nerves, and bones. The next most often injured body parts are the leg, knee, thigh, foot, and toes.
Additional injuries are reported to the forearm or wrist, head and neck and trunk. OSHA and NIOSH also say serious nail gun injuries to the spinal cord, head, neck, eye, internal organs, and bones have been reported, and sometimes have resulted in paralysis, blindness, brain damage, bone fractures, and death.
Residential construction workers, especially those involved in framing and sheathing work, are the most susceptible to nail gun injuries. Roofers and workers involved in exterior siding and finishing are also at risk.
Unintended nail discharge is one of the most common sources of injuries, according to the guidance. It says a study of workers' comp records found that two-thirds of nail gun injury claims involved either an unintended nail gun discharge or misfire.
Additional risk factors included nail penetration through a lumber work piece, nail ricochet after striking a hard surface or metal feature, missing the work piece -- when the tip of the nail gun does not make full contact and the discharged nail becomes airborne -- awkward position nailing, and bypassing safety mechanisms.
The agencies recommend employers provide sequential trigger nail guns rather than contact trigger nail guns. They report studies of residential carpenters found the overall risk of injury was twice as high when contact trigger nail guns were used.
Other steps to improve nail gun safety include:
- Provide training.
- Establish nail gun work procedures. The guidance includes an extensive list of dos and don'ts.
- Provide personal protective equipment, such as safety shoes, which help protect workers' toes from nail gun injuries. Additional equipment may include hard hats, high impact eye protection, and hearing protection.
- Encourage reporting and discussion of injuries and close calls.
- Provide first aid and medical treatment immediately after nail gun injuries even for hand injuries that appear to be minimal. The guidance reports that 1 out of 4 nail gun hand injuries can involve structural damage such as bone fracture. Also, materials such as nail strip glue or plastic can get embedded in the injury and lead to infection.
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October 24, 2011
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