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Construction Safety Association of Ontario

Summary Statement

Provides statistics on incidents occurring when using an auto-nailer, like a nail gun, and ways to prevent injuries including proper selection of tool, procedures and PPE.
Spring 2004

In Ontario construction from 1997 to 1999, sixty-two injuries were reported in connection with auto-nailers.

Fifty-seven of these were the result of workers being struck by fasteners. That represents 92% of the total injuries.

Hands and feet were the most common areas injured, but there were also instances of practically every part of the body being hurt.

With the growing use of auto-nailers (also known as power fasteners, power nailers, nail-guns, air-nailers, etc.) it’s important to recognize operating hazards. Improper handling and use can have serious, even fatal repercussions.

To encourage safe practices with auto-nailers, the Carpentry Labour-Management Health and Safety Committee has put together four tips for everyone in Ontario construction.

1. Read and Understand All Safety Instructions

Ensure that company safety policies regarding auto-nailers are well-explained and understood by users and by workers nearby.

Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the specific tool you operate. Manufacturers build different features, or build the same feature in different ways, so it’s necessary to understand these differences before you operate the auto-nailer. Again, refer to the instructions for the specific model you’re using.

2. Choose a Trigger System that Suits the Job

Today’s auto-nailers are made with a built-in safety catch to prevent the operator from firing a nail through the air. The safety catch release trigger—located at the muzzle of the gun—must be pressed against a surface before the firing trigger will operate.

In some nailers, this is the only safety mechanism. It allows the operator to keep the firing trigger depressed and discharge fasteners in rapid succession by “bouncing” the gun. Every bounce releases the safety catch, thereby firing a fastener.

This type of trigger system is suited for open areas and flat surfaces, such as floor and roof sheathing. But you must take extreme caution when using the nailer in this way.

Workers have been seriously hurt by nails fired as a result of accidental contact with the safety catch while the trigger is depressed. Fasteners have punctured hands, feet, legs, and other body parts—and broken bones as well.

In situations where you change the position of the nailer frequently, as in framing, or where surfaces are uneven, as in trim installation, your best choice is a sequential trip trigger system.

Before it will fire a nail, this system requires that you release the trigger, depress the safety catch, and squeeze the trigger every time. The nailer won’t operate unless you follow this sequence.

3. Wear Eye Protection

CSA Standard Z94.3-99 Industrial Eye and Face Protectors classifies the main eye hazards and outlines the type of protectors recommended for each.

With auto-nailers, the hazard is classified as “Flying Objects.” For this type of work, the CSA Standard prescribes Class 1A spectacles (safety glasses with side shields) as minimum protection, and Class 2A or 2B goggles as the best protection.

Workers in the vicinity of nailer operations must also wear eye protection. The speed and force with which the nailer drives fasteners can seriously injure anyone nearby.

4. Keep Your Finger Off the Trigger

Your finger should be on the trigger only when firing a fastener.

At all other times, hold and carry the auto-nailer by the handle, with your finger off and away from the trigger. This will prevent unexpected firing if the catch release trigger is accidentally pressed between tasks.

Follow this rule even with auto-nailers that have a sequential trip trigger system.