According to an influential study published in the journal Applied Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (AOEH), the average American house constructed within the last decade used almost 70,000 nails. Obviously, manual nailing just won’t get the job done anymore. Residential carpenters have universally turned to pneumatic nail guns, powerful tools that promise unprecedented efficiency on the worksite.
But injuries caused by pneumatic nailers may be the unintended cost of this increased productivity. The US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reports an estimated 37,000 emergency room visits are related to nail gun accidents every year. And the cause for concern is growing. Injuries involving nail guns tripled between 1991 and 2005. Some experts suggest that this trend is explained simply: more nail guns are making their way into the hands of untrained, DIY homeowners.
Top 3 Most Common Nail Gun Injuries
Nail gun injuries come in many forms, most commonly puncture wounds. But due to the stunning force with which most nailers drive fasteners, these punctures can be devastating to victims. Even minor tears can become tragic if infection is allowed to take hold. And while the location of most nail gun injuries might not surprise you, their severity probably will.
1. Puncturing The Fingers & Hands
After reviewing emergency room records, the CDC found that the vast majority, about 66%, of all nail-gun injuries involve the upper extremities. Fingers, palms, and upper arms pierced by nails, some driven at a maximum velocity of 150 feet per second.
Independent studies, including the AOEH project we discussed above, have confirmed the CDC’s findings. Reviewing contractors on sites in Ohio and North Carolina, researchers from the Duke University Medical Center found that almost 60% of nail gun injuries affected fingers and hands. Out of these accidents, almost 90% involved total punctures, rather than cuts or abrasion. In short, these accidents did not involve nails glancing off a worker’s hand, but penetrating it.
Surprisingly, most of these injuries had nothing to do with the work pierce itself. In a small portion of nailer accidents, injury results from a nail fully penetrating a board, and entering a worker’s limb on the other side. But far more likely, nails miss the work piece entirely, or glance off a particularly thick knot.
Obviously, a serious puncture wound can be devastating. Most embedded nails cannot be removed by hand, but require surgery. Even after successful extraction, the wound may require lengthy periods of rehabilitation before complete recovery. Some workers are left partially disabled, permanently without the use of a finger or entire hand.
2. Piercing Lower Extremities, Like Legs
As we discussed, the majority of nail gun accidents cause injury to hands and fingers. Another 24% of injuries involve legs, knees, and feet, or the body’s “lower extremities.”
Many of these injuries are caused by accidental discharge. When a nailer is outfitted with a contact trip trigger, it can be used by continually depressing its manual trigger, and then bumping the contact tip along a work piece. But some workers walk around with their finger on the trigger, even when the nail gun is not in use. Bump the tip accidentally against the leg, and it may discharge unintentionally. Accidental discharge also occurs in the course of a slip and fall.
3. Eye Injuries, Including Corneal Abrasion
Eye injuries are surprisingly common on the job site. Most occur when nails, either intentionally or unintentionally fired, meet an obstacle and ricochet away from the work piece. This is particularly common during toe nailing, the process of fastening two boards at a perpendicular angle. With the nailer already placed at an angle, double fire can send nails careening off in odd directions. Plus, many workers lean in close to gain an adequate view of their work. Unfortunately, this can put their eyes in the line of fire.
Pneumatic nailers discharge fasteners at such extreme velocities that protective eye wear is often insufficient to protect a worker’s face. In many cases, a worker’s goggles are actually pushed away from their proper position by a ricocheting nail.
Even when the eye itself is not punctured, nails can scratch the eyes’ surface, impairing vision and, in some cases, resulting in blindness.
Contact A Nail Gun Injury Lawyer
Were you injured in a nail gun accident? Negligence is a common problem on construction sites across the country, contributing to numerous worker injuries every year. If your nailer injury was caused by someone else’s careless actions, you may be entitled to substantial financial compensation.
Equipment manufacturers can also be held responsible for malfunctioning, or unreasonably dangerous, tools. Many nail gun companies, including Hitachi and Dewalt, have released recalls of their popular nailers. You can learn more about nail gun recalls here. But for many contractors, and consumers, the damage has already been done.
Contact the personal injury lawyers at Banville Law today. Our experienced team of nail gun attorneys can review your case and help you decide on the best course of action. In a personal injury lawsuit, you can secure compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Call 877-752-0980 or complete our contact form for a free consultation.