In the construction industry, nail guns have become the gold standard for wood frame construction. They're easy to use, offer much more power than a traditional hammer, and allow crews to complete projects faster.  
But they're not without their risks. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, they send 37,000 people to the emergency room every year. More than half of those visits are work-related injuries. 

 Common Types of Nail Gun Accidents
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Double Fire
When the nailer accidentally contacts the workpiece after recoil, it can cause a second unintended firing and injure the contractor.  
At all times, and especially when doing precise work, be sure that you can pull the gun fully away after recoil. Never push too hard on the gun to compensate for recoil - you risk unintentional contact with the workpiece.
These types of accidents are most common with contact trigger nailers. If possible, use a full sequential trigger gun.
 Airborne Nails
On occasion, a nail shot from a gun will blow through the work, miss it entirely, or strike a hard surface and ricochet away. These nails become airborne projectiles and can injure bystanders or the contractor using the nailer. 

Nail Pass-Through
If nails hit weak spots in the wood, they can pass through the workpiece. This is most dangerous when the contractor is manually stabilizing the wood. In this case, the nail can easily penetrate and injure the hand.
Awkward Position Work
Contractors occasionally have to fire nail guns from unstable positions, such as:

  • above shoulder height,  
  • from a ladder,  
  • in tight quarters, or    
  • holding the gun with the non-dominant hand.  
Because full control is not possible from these positions, the risk of injury is higher.
Disabled Safety Mechanisms
Some contractors will modify the safety mechanisms on their nailers to make firing easier. This often leads to unintended firing and is a common source of injury. For this reason, OSHA's construction standard requires that all manufacturer safety features be maintained in proper working order.

So how do you avoid nail gun accidents, in these situations or others?

Nail Gun Safety Tips

Training nail gun operators properly is a necessary step for preventing nail gun injuries.

1. Training of workers for optimal safety.
Every contractor, including the most experienced, should be completing a full training program before using a nail gun. The program needs to include company work procedures, use of protective equipment, and injury procedures. Make sure you get hands-on practice with:  
  • loading and firing the gun,  
  • proper technique for holding your workpiece,  
  • approaches for awkward position work and ricochet-prone surfaces, and 
  • working with the trigger model on your nailer.
2. Wear personal protective equipment.  
Don't pick up a nail gun unless you're wearing:  
  • A hard hat 
  • High-impact safety glasses or goggles  
  • Hearing protection  
  • Safety shoes  
Employers should provide these items at no cost to you. 
3. Follow all manufacturer instructions, especially safety recommendations.
Nailer manufacturers publish rules for nail gun safety and use. Always read your nailer's manual and make sure it's available on the job site. Pay particular attention to safety features and don't disable them.
Finally, make sure that adherence to manufacturer recommendations is a part of all nail gun work procedures.
4. Do a safety check before starting work.
Make sure your nailer and any power sources are in correct working order. Check your lumber for weak spots and ricochet risk.  
5. Stay clear of the nailer.
Never aim the nail gun toward your body and always keep hands at least 12 inches away from the contact point. If you need to stabilize the workpiece further, consider using clamps.
6. If possible, avoid using a nail gun at height or in awkward positions.
Don't use a nail gun if doing so presents more risk. Consider using a hammer for:  
  • work at face or head height,
  • work in a tight space,
  • or to nail anything you can't reach while holding the nailer in your dominant hand.  

Whenever possible, avoid using a nail gun on a ladder. Consider using scaffolding instead and if you can't, choose a full sequential trigger nailer and keep three points of contact on the ladder at all times.
Remember, Accidents Do Happen

Even when you follow safety procedures, accidents can happen. Always seek immediate medical attention, even if your injury seems minor. Remember to report all incidents and close calls to your supervisor or safety representative in accordance with company safety policies and applicable regulations.
Finally, remember that nail gun injuries can cause serious damage. Make your worksite as safe as it can be with the right insurance coverage.


If you have any questions regarding this article or your business insurance,

please contact our agency at 732 832 7546.


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Cranford NJ 07016


Article and photo courtesy of Selective Insurance.