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How dangerous are nail guns?

Sixty-eight percent of the estimated 37,000 people who seek medical care each year for a serious injury due to nail gun use are professional workers, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Nail gun injuries on construction sites in Illinois and elsewhere are due to at least one of seven distinct risks. The two most common occur when the nail gun double fires, causing the gun to discharge a nail unintentionally, or because a safety mechanism was disabled or failed to work.

The National Institute of Health notes that while nail guns can be a boon to efficient production, construction workers can suffer extensive damage to the hand or other body part from a misfire from a nail gun. The NIH states that nail guns produce enough force to project a sharp object into stresses concrete at speeds up to 1400 feet per second. That force can be compared to that of a .22 caliber rifle.

There are essentially two types of firing mechanisms for nail guns. One is dual action firing, which does not require the worker to release the trigger before discharging another nail. The second type is a nail gun that operates with sequential firing, requiring the worker to release and reengage the trigger for every nail. Sequential triggers are considered by far to be the safer option.

 The CDC lists the following additional risk factors for nail gun injury:

  •        Penetration of the nail through lumber
  •        Ricochet of a nail off a hard surface
  •        Misfiring into something other than the intended material
  •        Positioning the nail at an awkward angle
  •        Intentionally disabling safety mechanisms

Sufficient on-site training and the proper safety equipment are considered the surest ways to mitigate the danger of nail guns.


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