By now you've probably heard about, or even seen for yourself, the common accidents caused by unsafe use of pneumatic nailers. The carpenter who stepped off a first-floor deck and hit his knee with his nailer — driving a fastener into his leg. The framer who came down a ladder with his finger on the trigger and hit another worker on the way down — driving a fastener into his friend's head. The guy who was nailing a wall together and missed the plate — sending a nail into the chest of another framer. It happens so quickly, nobody has time to react.
Pneumatic nailer accidents continue to be a major source of jobsite injuries, and with so many inexperienced carpenters joining framing crews it's even more important that everyone knows how to set up and use these tools safely. Tool companies are doing what they can to make pneumatic nailers as safe as possible, but they can only do so much. The rest is up to you.
Safety Features New features like control switches that let you switch from bounce-firing (rapid nailing with the trigger depressed) to sequential-firing (requiring you to pull the trigger to drive each nail) can improve safety. So if you are buying a new nailer, consider the models that come with these features. Thanks to new safety regulations in the tool industry, nailers that don't come with the new switch features will now come with a sequential trigger installed. Bounce-fire triggers will come separately (often for free), and you'll have to install them yourself if you want to use nailers for rapid-firing. Even with the new features, you need to follow the basic rules for using these powerful tools. Take the time to read the manufacturer's operator instructions.
Follow safety rules:
Double-firing occurs when a nailer bounces without control off the work surface and then, because you resist this recoil action, hits the surface again, firing a second nail that you did not intend to shoot. The problem is that the second shot can go out of control and hit you or someone else before you even know what happened. Double-firing often happens when a carpenter is not in proper position to control and fire his nailer, reaching too far to fasten something, or not holding the nailer in the proper position. Take the time to get into a safe and solid position before you start nailing, and change position often as you work to assure safe operation. —A version of this article originally appeared in EL NUEVO CONSTRUCTOR, a sister publication of REMODELING. For more information on jobsite safety, go to www.osha.gov or call 800.321.6742.