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Nail Gun xrays

These aren’t my X-rays, but last night, while working with my Craftsman nail gun, I had the pleasure of shooting a 2″ nail into my thumb. The nail passed cleanly through without doing any real harm. On the positive side, I came up with a new combination of swear words, I now have a great deal more respect for air tools — and I’ve started taking safety a little more seriously.

The fingers incur the damage in about 43% of nail gun injuries, followed by the hand with 23% — the remaining 34% of injuries are mostly spread out among feet, thighs, wrists, and knees. The accidents occur mostly on construction sites. Often the injuries result from a modification to the nailer that removes the safety spring, so the nail fires as soon as the trigger’s pulled.

Check out the safety information and tips — I hope fellow Toolmongers won’t have to experience the pain of shooting themselves with a nail gun.

Nail Gun Safety [Wikipedia]
Nail Gun Safety Tips [Taylor Rental]
How To Use A Nail Gun [Expert Village]
Craftsman 18-Gauge Nailer [Sears]


14 Responses to Nail Gun Safety

  1. fred says:

    Construction can be dangerous. Bump-fire pneumatics speed production – but at a potential cost. On many of our older bump-fire Hitachis – we have changed out the triggers to the safer one-shot style. On remodeling old work where we have reason to be suspicious – we try to do a quck scan with a metal detector (We use Lumber Wizards) to try to avoid firing into a piece of embedded steel or iron. If we really unsure – we go back to the old standby hammer. But even on new work – wood grain is tricky and a blowout is always possible – so training about where to place (or not place) your hands, feet and other essential parts is important. When I visit my sites – if I see bad practices being employed – I take action. I expect the same from my crew bosses. Crew members who are spotted working in an unsafe way are re-trained , disciplined or terminated if it continues.

  2. Scraper says:

    In college I worked for a “fly-by-night” framing company building houses/condos/etc… (Don’t judge me, they paid in cash, the schedule was flexible and it was better than flipping burgers.) On about our third job they gave us nail guns, with no formal training. Point, shoot, piece of cake.

    We were framing up a wall, I was shooting the top and another guy was shooting the bottom. A nail hit a knot and blew out the side of the board on his end. It cartwheeled through the air and stuck in my cheek, just below my eye. (I still have the scar.) Learned a lot about nail guns on that day.

    The next day OSHA shows up and shuts the company down for about 600 different infractions. Go figure.

  3. Zathrus says:

    Ok, I can understand shooting yourself in the thumb. Or your hand. Or your knee.

    But what in the hell happened with that last x-ray!?!?! A multiple discharge in the wrong direction? An impromptu game of nailball? A (botched?) mafia hit job?

    Appears to be 6 nails from 2-4 different angles. WTF!

  4. BC says:

    The only encounter I had with a pneumatic nailer was putting up some trim – I shot the last 2″ 16-ga finishing nail of the day, and nailed right into the head of a drywall nail. The finishing nail curled up and went completely through my left index finger – thankfully it didn’t hit bone.

    Needless to say, my hands are now kept much farther away from the nailer.

  5. Jose says:

    Zathrus, I think I remember hearing on the radio about some guy who went to the hospital complaining of a bad headache, and after they took the above X-ray, the guy admitted he was trying to kill himself by way of nailgun…

  6. l_bilyk says:

    What? No pics of your thumb?

  7. DaveS says:

    I used to work in a large shop that used a lot of pneumatic staplers. The dock faced a trash transfer station, so it wasn’t unusual to see a big city rat die in a hail of pneumatic fasteners.

    Good times.

    My worst pneumatic fastener accident came when I was using a stapler known for double firing. I was shooting 2″ staples into 5/4 poplar, making decking sections. At one corner, one of the boards had a little twist to it, so I had to pop a staple into one edge then counter-twist the board to make the corner nice. First staple went in fine. For the second, I was paying just a little too much attention to the boards and a little too little to the tool – the second intentional staple went in fine, but the accidental staple after that sunk one leg into the wood – and the other straight up my thumb.

    No blood, really, and I think because of the sudden shock there wasn’t a lot of pain. I was working alone in a far corner of the shop, so there was nobody to call, so I took matters into my own hands (as it were): I put the stapler down, took a couple of deep breaths, then wound up my free hand and slapped my impaled one really hard. That knocked it free from the staple, and unplugged the blood vessels so it really started flowing. The staple missed my bone and didn’t tear my skin, so all it needed was a quick raid on the big first aid kit for lidocaine and betadine and I was back to work in no time.

  8. ToolFreak says:

    While I’ve had my share of mishaps due to my own negligence with drills, grinders, and many other power tools, and even the negligence of others (almost had my foot smashed up by a forklift, hand nearly sliced off with a chainsaw, etc.), something so much like a firearm as a nailgun is just asking for it. If someone is using one and shooting nails (brads and staples don’t fly quite as far), you can be sure I’m not sticking around. Despite the many safety practices, I do believe keeping your distance from someone using one (preferably behind them, as well) is the best prevention.

  9. Bart'sDad says:

    In the not too distant past here in MN we had a case of a framer shooting and killing a goose with a pneumatic nailer. OSHA wasn’t his biggest concern, the DNR nailed him(sorry about the pun) for taking a goose out of season and without a license.

  10. techieman33 says:

    Zathrus, I remember seeing x-rays similar to that from a guy that left his nailer on the top of the ladder, and as he was climbing down it fell off and put several nails into his head on the way down.

  11. Rob says:

    I miss judged the length of brads one passed a 1 3/4 brad through my thumb and yes I think I know the phrase you speak of when that happens

  12. MikeT says:

    Not long after I trashed my index finger in a tablesaw, a friend nailed his hand to the roof with a pneumatic nailer. I was so grateful to have the emphasis off my dumb injury and onto his for a while.

  13. Wayne D. says:

    I treat them as I would my pistol.
    -Always treat it as if it’s loaded
    -Keep your finger from the trigger until you are ready to fire
    -Only point at what you want to hit
    -Check the down-range for people
    -Don’t stick body parts near the business end

  14. Ralph says:

    I shot my left index finger with a staple gun back in 1980 at a furniture factory. I knew right away that it hit bone. So I went over to the side shop where the table-mounted vice was and picked up a pair of pliers. I set my finger against the vice with the staple sticking out above it and grabbed it with the pliers and with a determined effort, yanked it out real hard and fast. While there seemed to be no real pain when I shot myself, there was certainly thirty times more pain pulling it out. So the next time I had shot into my left thumb knuckle, I decided to have the company Dr. pull it out. WRONG! I had thought that he would numb it a bit first, but no, he just did the same thing I did to myself the first time… he just yanked it out. PAIN!!! I thought then that if I ever did it again, I wuld skip the Dr. and do it myself again, but twice was enough.

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