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Nail Gun Safety

Being Safe With A Pneumatic Nailer 

By Ethan Bickford

We all make mistakes. Some are just a little more costly than others.

I’m a pretty safety conscious kind of guy. I look where I’m putting my feet on the job site. I wear eye, ear, and lung protection. Heck I even wear gloves a good part of the time. I keep my footing under me when I’m using my tools, use blade guards when they’re present and generally try to keep myself from getting hurt. But even when you’re careful and take proper precautions things can go wrong as they did recently for me when I had a run-in with my framing nailer.

Nail Gun Safety:

Single vs. Bump fire

Generally use your nailer in single fire mode. For safety’s sake you’re better off in single fire mode rather than bump fire. Bump fire is all well and good when you’re putting down sheathing and have a bunch of sheets of ply to nail. But if you’re doing any nit-picky framing work where your off hand is going to be positioning studs or other framing members set that bad-boy to single fire. I learned this one the hard way recently and put a 3-1/8” nail through my index finger.

Keep your hands and the rest of your body clear.

I try to keep my hands at least a foot away from the nose of the nailer at all times. More so if I’m positioning studs on a frame I’m building on the floor. You’ll also have an impulse occasionally to point the nailer back towards yourself when you’re in an awkward position nailing off that last piece of whatever. Don’t. Take the time to get out the longer ladder, or move the ladder, or have someone hold the other end and get in the right position so you’re not putting yourself in danger.

Unplug it.

When you’re doing any maintenance or clearing jambs unplug the gun from the air hose. 100-120 psi is a lot of pressure. Just visualize a lot of youngish teenagers or small women wearing one stilt that’s 1”x1” on the bottom, standing room only on the entire interior surface of your nailer. now imagine that they’re all going to simultaneously jump on a piston that hits the head of a framing nail and sends it flying out the end of the framing gun.  Scary.

Wear safety glasses.

Wire and plastic collated nails send a lot of debris around when you’re using them, and the rare ricochet, mis-fire, or errant blown off chunk of wood happens. Keep your eyeballs safe.

Wear hearing protection.

Nail guns are loud. And yes it may not bother some people anymore but that’s likely because they’ve already damaged their hearing. If you want to be able to hear your coworkers spend a little extra dough and get some ear muffs designed for shooting ranges. These have microphones built in that pick up sound and send it to built-in speakers. The key factor here is that they also cancel out sounds that are above safe decibel levels (usually 82db).

What to do if you do hurt yourself

So You’ve taken all your precautions but still had an accident. And this is the part that most people don’t want to talk about. Because it’s uncomfortable to think about but you can improve the outcome of a bad situation by planning on what to do in case of an accident.

If you hurt yourself.

Sit or lie down, immediately. A very common occurrence with what would have otherwise been minor injuries is for people to pass out from shock and hit their heads on a hard surface, causing head trauma. I myself passed out after my incident but fortunately was leaning against some lumber on some saw horses and landed relatively safely on the lumber. My other options were concrete garage floor or asphalt which would have been No Good.

Leave the nail in. Contrary to your impulse to get that foreign body out of your body you’re often better off waiting to remove whatever it is until you’re at the emergency department of your local hospital. That thing could cause damage to nerves, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, or organs if it’s not removed carefully or in same cases surgically. Also, it may be helping to minimize bleeding.

 Don’t try to drive yourself to the hospital. You may feel up to it now but you’re likely to pass out while driving. Which is pretty likely to cause another accident and may cause serious injury to you or someone else. You’re better off having someone drive you or calling an ambulance.

Nail gun safety is no joke take it seriously and educate your crew on how to properly use a nailer and protective equipment!

NOTE : as bad as the picture looks, the nail missed the none and was only a flesh wound.  Ethan was back to work in no time.

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