Nail Gun Safety Tips: The Do’s and Don’ts of a Nail Gun

Nails guns are some of the most commonly used tools in the construction industry. Most construction workers use a nail gun in the place of traditional hammers to drive nails into various surfaces. Besides construction workers, homeowners also use nail guns when doing various home improvement projects. Nail guns are preferred today over hammers in that they’re easy to operate, powerful, and boost productivity in work that involves nailing. 

While nail guns are advantageous, they also come with the risk of injuring the user. Injuries resulting from nail gun accidents account for thousands of emergency room visits annually. Severe nail gun accidents can lead to lifelong impairment and even death. Most of these injuries affect the hands and fingers. Due to the extent of injury that nail guns cause, it’s important to learn more about nail gun safety. Thus, this article discusses the dos and don’ts of nail guns. By going through this article, you’ll easily avoid getting nail gunned.

tacwise nail gun 18g loading

How does a nail gun work?

Before looking at the dos and don’ts of nail guns, it’s important to understand the working mechanism of nail guns. A nail gun works using a trigger mechanism. Regardless of the trigger mechanism, all nail guns come with two controls which are: the safety contact tip and the finger trigger. The most common trigger mechanisms are full sequential, contact, single sequential, and single actuation.

Full sequential trigger

The full sequential trigger is the safest trigger mechanism. It only fires a nail upon activating the controls in a special order. First, you must push the safety contact. Once done, you’ll squeeze the trigger and the nail will get discharged. This procedure has to be repeated to fire another nail. 

Contact trigger

In this type of trigger, a nail is fired whenever the safety contact and finger trigger is activated without following any specific order. You decide which control to activate first. You can fire multiple nails by keeping the trigger squeezed and drive a nail whenever the safety contact is pushed. 

Single sequential trigger

Just like a full sequential trigger, a single sequential trigger fires a single nail upon pushing the safety contact and squeezing the trigger in a specific order. To another nail, you’ll release the trigger and squeeze it again since the safety contact remains pressed.

 tacwise nail gun 16g rapid fire

Single actuation trigger

This trigger mechanism works like the single sequential trigger mechanism. The only difference is that you can bump fire the first nail in a single actuation trigger, something which is not possible with a single sequential trigger.

What Causes Nail Gun Accidents?

There’re several risk factors that cause nail gun injury. It’s important to understand them to avoid getting nail gunned. These risk factors include:

  • Unintended double firing

Unintended double firing often occurs with a contact trigger nail gun, whereby a second nail can be fired unintentionally. This often occurs when working in awkward positions and tight spaces that make the gun luck enough space for a recoil. The unintended double firing also occurs when a user pushes too hard on the gun when trying to compensate for gun recoil. 

  • Unintended nail discharge 

If the safety contact is knocked by mistake when the trigger is still squeezed, then you’ll fire an unintended nail. This problem only occurs with single actuation and contact triggers. The nail discharged unintentionally can cause injury.

  • Nail penetration through a surface

A nail may penetrate through the surface you’re nailing and hit the hand that is holding that piece of work or fly through as an airborne nail and injury a nearby person. This problem can occur with any trigger mechanism. 

tacwise nail gun 16g fired in wood

  • A nail bouncing off

A nail may hit an extremely hard surface and rather than penetrating the piece of work, it’ll bounce off and injure whoever it hits. This problem also occurs with any trigger mechanism. 

  • Missing the intended object

Nail gun injuries can also occur when the nail fails to make contact with the object being nailed, especially when nailing near the edges of an object. In this case, the nail can become airborne and injure whoever it hits. This problem also occurs with any trigger mechanism.

  • Awkward nailing position

Nailing with a nail gun in awkward positions makes it more challenging to control recoils, thereby increasing the risks of getting injured. Some of the most common awkward nailing positions are nailing when standing on a ladder, nailing above the height of your shoulder, toe-nailing, using the nail gun with your non-dominant hand, and nailing towards yourself. 

  • Bypassing safety nail gun mechanisms

Disabling or bypassing the mechanisms of the safety contact or trigger can increase the risk of getting nailed. Modifying the trigger or safety mechanism can also increase the risk of injury. 

The Do’s Of a Nail Gun

Here’re the things you should always do when using a nail gun:

  • Wear the right safety gear

You should always wear the right safety gear when using a nail gun. You should at least wear these safety gear:

  • Hard shoes to keep your feet protected.
  • Safety goggles to keep your eyes from recoiling nails.
  • Safety helmet or a hard hat especially when nailing above your head.
  • Earmuffs to cover and protect your ears.
visionet safety glasses

Visionet safety glasses

  • Use full sequential triggers

The safest trigger mechanism to use is the full sequential trigger. It doesn’t double fire, making it safer for the user and anyone nearby. It’s the most ideal trigger mechanism for use when working in awkward positions and for inexperienced nail gun users.

  • Always read the user manual 

Each type of nail gun comes with specific instructions that should be followed. You should read all the instructions carefully. The little time you’ll spend reading through the instructions will save you from getting injured when using the nail gun.

  • Know the safety measures that should be taken

It’s important to know nail gun safety measures before using the tool. First, learn more about different types of trigger mechanisms. Next, know all the instructions for using the nail gun. The instructions should be on your fingertips. Also, know how to unload and reload your nail gun. You should also know how to maintain the nail gun well.

  • Be focused when using the gun

 Ensure the nail gun is aimed at an angle that allows the safety contact to touch the exact position you want to nail. Your hand should be steady when getting ready to fire. Concentrate on firing the nail without getting distracted by conversations or sceneries.

  • Keep your hands off the workpiece

Ensure your hands are at least twelve inches away from the object you’re nailing. Use clamps if you must hold the work piece. 

  • Inspect the piece of wood

Always check the piece of wood you want to nail for faults such as lumps and knots that can make the nails bounce off. 

  • Use clean nails

Avoid using old, rusty nails as they can easily recoil. Only use clean and new nails.

  • Use the right nails

Use the nails that are designed for the specific nail gun. Attempting to use improper type may lead to misfires, nail jam, and higher risk of injury.

  • Disconnect your nail gun as needed

Always disconnect your nail gun before:

  • Moving up or down the ladder, stairs, or any other elevated surface
  • Giving the nail gun to your co-worker
  • Removing jammed nails
  • Cleaning the gun
  • Storing the gun 
  • Inspect everything

Always inspect the trigger, safety contact, nails, and power source before using the gun.

The Don’ts of a Nail Gun

Here’re the things you should never do with a nail gun:

  • Don’t keep your finger placed on the trigger

One of the most common causes of getting nailed is keeping the finger on the trigger. This is extremely dangerous with contact trigger mechanisms. You might fire a nail accidentally if your finger stays on the trigger.

  • Don’t use the nail gun in awkward positions

In case you’ve to nail somewhere challenging to reach with your dominant hand, then you’d rather use a hammer. Also, never use a nail gun at level with your face to avoid injuries from gun recoils.

  • Don’t interfere with the gun’s safety features

 A nail gun comes with certain safety features. Never modify them, bypass them, or interfere with them even if you’re just cleaning the gun.

  • Don’t use your non-dominant hand

Never use your non-dominant hand to hold the nail gun. Your non-dominant hand may not hold the gun steadily, thereby increasing the risk of getting injured.

  • Don’t keep the nail gun in reach of kids

Kids are often curious. They can mistake the nail gun for a toy gun and end up injuring themselves. Thus, never keep the nail gun where kids can easily reach them.

  • Don’t drag the nail gun by its hose

You should never attempt to drag your nail gun by its hose. The hose can get caught and pulling it hard might cause problems.

Final Words

Although a nail gun enhances efficiency when nailing, there’s a risk of injury if not used properly. Thus, it’s important to learn the working mechanisms of a nail gun and use it safely. By observing the dos and don’ts of a nail gun, you’ll get the job done without anyone getting hurt.

Edited By Marcus Kett, Woodworking since 1989

Woodworking for me is in my blood as a son of a traditional boatbuilder. My Father Malcolm Kett was highly skilled and inventive individual often referred to as ‘Malcolm The Boat’. 

selfie workshop bio

Well that’s Me

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