Safe use of nailing tools

Nailing tools can be dangerous if not used correctly, the following information aims at reducing incidents with air operated nailing tools.

Labour savers or lethal weapons?

Because of their obvious advantages, air operated nailing tools are widely accepted and used in industry. 

Used safely, they are labour and money savers. 

Used unsafely, they can be lethal weapons. 

WorkCover injury statistics identifies carpenters and joiners as the occupation which is at highest risk of injury from industrial guns. Over a 5 year period there has been an average of over a 100 claims per year with an average of 67 days lost per injury.

WorkSafe frequently receives reports of serious incidents involving nailing tools 

In many of these incidents equipment was inadvertently, deliberately or carelessly misused, or was not properly maintained.  

These accidents show clearly that constant attention to safe practices is essential, for the safety of both the user and others in the area. 

Reducing accidents

The following list will help in reducing accidents associated with air operated nail guns and should be observed at all times. 

  • Do not attempt to use a nail gun unless you have first received instructions on safe use. 
  • Read printed instructions provided with the tool for its safe use. Remember the rules and stick to them. 
  • Wear safety glasses. 
  • Do not point the tool towards yourself or others, no matter how far away they are. 
  • Clearly display one or more warning signs. 
  • When leaving the tool unattended, turn off the air supply and disconnect the air hose. 
  • Do not use the nail gun in a congested area. 
  • Do not use a defective nail gun - ensure all nail guns are regularly maintained. 
  • Maintain a safe, well balanced position to prevent misalignment of the nail gun during use. 
  • Do not work above other trades. Always be aware of the possible danger to your workmates, and take whatever precautions are required. 
  • Do not use any nail that is not of a type suited to the nail gun and the purpose for which it is being used. 

Make yourself familiar with the requirements of the Work Health and Safety Act 2020 and Chapter 6 of the Work Health and Safety (General) Regulations.

Case studies

WorkSafe records show that nailing machine accidents are invariably preceded by unsafe use of equipment. It is the responsibility of employers to ensure that workers are adequately trained and that safe work methods and equipment are used. 

WorkSafe is aware of the following incidents involving nailing guns.

  • Workers were handling a nailing machine unsafely when it discharged. A man was injured and was left with a permanent disability. 
  • A nailing machine was being used to attach structural members to a timber building frame with steel connector plates, when the carpenter positioned the tool awkwardly. A nail ricocheted from the steel plate and penetrated to its full depth in his assistant's head. The assistant recovered. 
  • An operator was walking along a timber framework fixing a series of nails, while holding the job with his left hand. With the trigger depressed, he was using the muzzle guard pressure to activate the tool when he accidentally nailed his left hand to the job. 
  • A nailing machine operator was working with his assistant on a repetitive job, also using the muzzle guard pressure technique. The assistant accidentally bumped against the machine, and it discharged, seriously injuring him. 

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