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Nail guns contribute to injuries at construction sites

Nail gun injuries are common among construction workers in Pennsylvania and around the country. A publication prepared by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health offers insight into this problem and the ways in which such injuries happen. It has been estimated that nail gun injuries are responsible for approximately 37,000 visits to emergency rooms each year. A study of these incidents at residential construction sites revealed that 66 percent of injuries occur during sheathing and framing with the remainder happening while working on outdoor siding and roofs.

Injuries are commonly seen in the fingers and hands and include damage to the tendons, joints, bone and nerves. Other areas where injuries occur are the toes, feet and thighs as well as knees and legs. The least common areas are the head, arm and trunk. Fatal construction injuries caused by these tools do occur, however.

The greatest risks for nail gun injuries may result from a lack of safety precautions, while others are linked to the types of materials that a worker uses. A change in wood grain such as around knots may allow the nail to pass through the wood or deflect it causing it to change direction. Nails may ricochet off metal framing causing injury. Sometimes workers must operate in tight spaces and are forced to hold the nail gun in an unnatural position. Examples of this include a worker using a ladder or reaching over his or her head. Safety issues include walking around with one's finger on the nail gun trigger or disengaging the safety.

Workers in the construction industry and other occupations who are injured on the job may be eligible for workers' compensation. Benefits may be available to pay for the costs of medical care and treatment as well as for a replacement of wages that are lost due to an inability to return to work.

Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, "Nail Gun Safety", accessed on March 3, 2015

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