Nails—The Unexpected Hazard

Workers used 1.3 billion pounds of nails on American construction projects in 2013. To get an idea of how many nails that is, multiply 1.3 billion by the average number of nails in a pound, which is 65, to get approximately 84.5 billion nails. It is important to remember that each swing of the hammer or pull of the nail gun trigger creates an opportunity for injury.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the construction industry reported 140,000 hand injuries last year. This represents only the injuries serious enough to report to OSHA. Smashed thumbs and bruised hands make the number of injuries closer to 500,000—most from driving nails.

In addition, punctures, scrapes and cuts from nails that workers didn’t properly remove from lumber and other debris account for 20 percent of all minor injuries on work sites.

Common sense precautions to keep in mind with using nails and nail guns include:

  • Keep your hammer in good shape, and make sure the handle is not split or broken.
  • Make sure the strike face is flat so the driving blow is 90 degrees to the nail head.
  • Keep the supply airline and the supply electric line on nail guns in safe working condition.
  • Ensure the nail gun safety and trigger function properly.
  • Ensure the material you are nailing into provides a seat for the nail. This keeps others safe by preventing the nail from shooting through the material.
  • Never horseplay with nail guns. The outcome can be fatal.
  • Always bend or pull nails when stripping.
  • Use the correct device for pulling nails.
  • Carefully discard used nails in the appropriate receptacle.