Pneumatic nail guns are common tools now readily available to consumers, extending to the public what had been primarily a potential work-related hazard. To characterize nail-gun injuries in work and nonwork settings, CDC studied data on patients with nail-gun injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments during 2001–2005. The results indicated that an average of 37,000 patients were treated for nail-gun injuries each year, with 40 percent of injuries occurring among consumers and that injuries in nonwork settings had tripled from 1991 to 2005. Created: 4/13/2007 by MMWR.
Date Released: 6/22/2007. Series Name: A Cup of Health with CDC.
A CUP OF HEALTH WITH CDC
Power Tools: Nail Down Safety First
Nail-Gun Injuries Treated in Emergency Departments — United
June 22, 2007
[Announcer] This podcast is presented by the Centers for Disease Control and
– safer, healthier people.
[Matthew Reynolds] Welcome to A Cup of Health with CDC, a weekly broadcast
MMWR, the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. I’m your host, Matthew
Speed, ease of use, and availability have made air-powered nail guns a common
for construction professionals and do-it-yourselfers, alike. But nail guns
serious injuries. Researchers from NIOSH, the National Institute of Occupational
and Health, have recently collaborated with colleagues at Duke University on
that examines the rate and causes of nail gun injuries. Dr. Hester Lipscomb,
occupational safety expert at Duke University who worked with NIOSH on this
discuss the study and what they learned. Dr. Lipscomb, welcome to the show.
[Dr. Lipscomb] Thank you, Matthew. It’s a pleasure to talk with you.
[Matthew Reynolds] Dr. Lipscomb, this topic is very timely. During the summer,
homeowners or “weekend warriors” take on a variety of home improvement
some basic and others that are complicated. One thing many of these projects
common is the use of power tools, which can include air-powered nail guns.
found that there are many people injured while using nail guns, some very seriously.
What did you and your colleagues learn about the frequency and nature of injuries
caused by nail guns?
[Dr. Lipscomb] We looked at injury data from the Consumer Product Safety
Commission and NIOSH, which is the worker health and safety arm of the CDC.
data allowed us to look at consumers and workers who were treated in emergency
rooms for nail gun injuries. Currently, there are about 37,000 nail gun injuries
emergency rooms each year in the U.S., and that translates to about 100 injuries
day. While that sounds like a lot of injuries, it’s important to realize
that we only
collected information on injuries treated in emergency departments and there
many more injuries that are treated at home or in other medical settings.
[Matthew Reynolds] That number is surprising, to say the least. What are some
other highlights you found from the study, Dr. Lipscomb?
[Dr. Lipscomb] Well most of the injuries that we saw are to construction workers
others whose work includes the use of these tools. The number of injuries to
professionals has remained pretty steady over the past several years. But in
the number of injuries to consumers has gone up dramatically since 1991 with
increase. In recent years consumers are accounting for nearly 40% of emergency
visits caused by nail guns. As you might expect, most often these injuries
occur in men
in their mid-20’s to mid-30’s, although injured consumers are somewhat
[Matthew Reynolds] I’ve read newspaper articles and seen television news
about people who’ve had accidents with nail guns and wound up with nails
in their head.
Is this not the typical injury? I’m assuming it isn’t.
[Dr. Lipscomb] No, the common nail gun injury is a puncture wound or nail embedded
in a hand or finger. Other common injuries include similar wounds to the arms,
and the feet. Less often, people are injured with a nail or nail embedded in
face, or chest. Nail guns can cause eye and dental injuries, but most people
injuries are treated in the emergency room and sent home. Some injuries are
enough to require hospitalization and even surgery. Deaths are rare but they
and in fact, there has been a recent news report of the death of a young carpenter
Idaho who sustained a head injury from a nail gun.
[Matthew Reynolds] It seems to me that a person using a nail gun would be really
careful, but apparently that’s not always the case. So how are these
[Dr. Lipscomb] These tools are powerful and they fire rapidly and that makes
very convenient for work; but it’s the same speed and power that are
the features that
can result in injuries. Hands or feet that are too close to where nailing is
being done is
one way that injuries can occur. Improper use, disabling safety features are
factors that can result in injuries. Locking the trigger and inadvertently
touching the nose
of the nail gun to a body part can result in nails being discharged unintentionally.
[Matthew Reynolds] Has anything been done to make nail guns safer to use?
[Dr. Lipscomb] There have been improvements to nail guns but despite this,
still happen. Since 2003, nail gun manufacturers have begun to comply with
industry standard that calls for equipping nail guns with a safer sequential
that’s designed to prevent inadvertent discharge of nails. Unfortunately,
there’re still nail
guns being sold that don’t have this feature, and many older nail guns
are still in use.
Even the newer tools are often shipped with the older, more dangerous contact
trigger in the same box and this can be really confusing to users. An inexperienced
may not know for sure whether the nail gun they planned to use is equipped
newer safety features.
[Matthew Reynolds] Well then, let’s say that I go to my local home improvement
and buy a nail gun. How do I determine the type of trigger mechanism on the
[Dr. Lipscomb] First, ask before you buy, and if the staff there can’t
help you, then
shop somewhere else. If you already own a tool, there’s a fairly simple
test that you can
do to determine what type of trigger mechanism you have. With the nail gun
safe nailing, the user can aim the nail gun at a thick board without the tip
of the gun
actually touching the board. While holding down the manual trigger, then touch
piece to the board. If a nail discharges, the gun has the more dangerous contact
trigger. In contrast, if you place the nose of the gun down first and then
pull the trigger to
discharge a nail, the tool has the safer sequential trigger. Regardless of
mechanisms, if a nail gun ever discharges a nail without being pressed against
object or seems to be misfiring, it should be repaired before using or discarded.
[Matthew Reynolds] What can nail gun users do to prevent injuries to themselves
[Dr. Lipscomb] First, they should always choose the safer sequential trip trigger
mechanism. If the user is uncertain about the trigger mechanism, employees
at a local
hardware or home improvement center should be able to check out the tool for
features. If you already have a nail gun that’s equipped with the contact
trip trigger, the
user should replace it or upgrade the nail gun so it’s equipped with
the safer sequential
trigger mechanism. Those who work with nail guns as part of their job and consumers
who only occasionally use a nail gun for home projects should recognize that
though these tools are easy to operate, they still need training in safe nail
Some home improvement centers, vocational schools, and local industrial arts
programs offer such training. And lastly, everyone who uses them needs to treat
like guns—use them with care and don’t disable the safety features.
[Matthew Reynolds] That is really helpful information and I’m sure our
listeners have a
better understanding of some of the dangers of using nail guns. Thank you for
the time to talk with us today, Dr. Lipscomb.
[Dr. Lipscomb] Thank you very much for inviting me. We appreciate your interest
getting information out about this public health problem.
[Matthew Reynolds] That’s it for this week’s show. Don’t
forget to join us next week.
Until then, be well. This is Matthew Reynolds for A Cup of Health with CDC.
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affects you, your
family and your community, please visit www.cdc.gov.