Nail Gun injuries and how to manage the risk on-site

Nail guns are used frequently on construction jobs, including in residential construction. Like all power tools, nail guns can cause serious injury. Nail gun injuries can happen due to accidental discharges whilst moving, carrying, and repositioning. Injury can also happen when fired nails strike other nails or timber knots causing them to ricochet. Incidents also occur when workers accidentally place themselves into positions where they are directly exposed to the projectile path of a nail gun.

The risk of a nail gun injury is greatly increased when using a contact trigger (bump fire or multishot) compared to using a full sequential trigger (single-shot). Most injuries occur when the nail gun is set to ‘bump fire’ mode, resulting in penetrating wounds to the operator or nearby workers.

It’s important you review the type of nail gun trigger system and the extent of information, instruction and training given to workers, particularly inexperienced and young workers.

Tips for managing the risks on site

There are a number of ways to reduce the risk of injuries. We have put together a few suggestions below and we encourage you to consult with your workers about how you can work together to ensure safe nail gun use on-site:

  • Replace bump fire nail guns with sequential (only) firing nail guns, wherever possible. A full sequential trigger is always the safest trigger mechanism for the job. It reduces the risk of unintentional nail discharge and double fires. 

Note: Bump-fire nail guns potentially may be used to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries (e.g. strains and sprains) for jobs that involve high volume production and repetitive tasks. In these circumstances, ensure only highly experienced and skilled workers use these types of nail guns and implement other additional control measures to reduce the risk of injury.

  • When working at height, operators should work from a platform as nail guns are designed to be used with two hands and recoil when fired.
  • Ensure nail guns are not held above the line of the workers shoulders
  • Keep other workers well away from the area where the nail gun is being used
  • Maintain nail guns, ensure crowns remain sharp and complete pre-start checks on them to ensure correct operation of the actuation mechanism. If any problems occur, have it repaired by a competent person or replace it. Do not continue to use a malfunctioning nail gun.
  • Inspect timber surfaces for cracks or knots prior to nail gun use.
  • Provide workers with training and instruction in their safe operation, develop Safe Operating Procedures (SOPs) and use any other specific direction provided in the manufacturer’s manual, including what to do if the nail gun malfunctions. In addition:
    • Carpenters should only use nail guns once adequately trained and deemed competent to use them.
    • Apprentices should only use nail guns under direct supervision.
  • Provide suitable PPE such as eye protection, hearing protection and any other recommended personal protective equipment as per the manufacturer instructions.