Nail gun injuries on the rise, OSHA warns
Hospital emergency rooms treat nearly about 37,000 workers each year for nail gun injuries, some of which are severe enough they result in death. That is the message the Occupational Safety and Health Administration communicated to construction industry professionals and their workers last week as part of an effort to boost awareness about the multiple dangers of these powerful tools and drive down the number of injuries they cause. According to OSHA, nail gun injuries have been on the rise as the tools become increasingly standard in the construction industry.
The construction industry already ranks consistently among the most dangerous occupations, mainly for the constant risks of falling or being struck by heavy objects. Nail guns, which are mostly used in the residential framing industry, add yet another layer of danger on the job for construction workers. An OSHA study of apprentice carpenters found that 2 out of every 5 were injured using a nail gun during their 4 years of training, 1 out of 5 were injured twice, and 1 out of 10 were injured three or more times.
More than half of reported nail gun injuries affect the hands and fingers. Twenty-five percent of these hand injuries involve structural damage to tendons, joints, nerves, and bones. Injuries to the leg, knee, thigh, foot, and toes were the next most common type of injuries, followed by wounds to the forearm or wrist, head and neck, and trunk.
More serious nail gun injuries usually occur to the spinal cord, head, neck, eye, internal organs, and bones and have resulted in paralysis, blindness, brain damage, bone fractures, and death.
A guide to nail gun safety for construction contractors developed by OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health offers several real-life examples of nail gun injuries, such as a 26-year-old Idaho construction worker who received a fatal injury in April 2007. The man was framing a house when he slipped and fell with his finger on the nail gun trigger. The nosepiece hit his head as he fell, driving a 3-inch nail into his skull and fatally damaging his brain stem. Investigators found that the victim’s nail gun was fully functional and not modified to operate more easily, which workers who use the guns daily often do.
According to OSHA, nail gun injuries occur in a number of ways, including unintended nail discharge; nails that bounce off a hard surface or miss the work piece and become airborne; and disabling the gun’s safety features.
“Injury prevention is possible if contractors take steps such as using full sequential trigger nail guns; establishing nail gun work procedures; and providing workers with personal protective equipment,” OSHA said in its release.
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