Nail gun injuries among construction workers

Appl Occup Environ Hyg. 2003 May;18(5):374-83. doi: 10.1080/10473220301365.


Pneumatic nail guns greatly increase worker productivity and are extensively used in wood frame building construction, with especially high use in residential construction. One surveillance report of nail gun injuries in Washington State has been published; however, other literature consists largely of case reports and case series in trauma journals. The major objective of the current study was to investigate the occurrence of nail gun-associated injuries among construction workers and to identify preventable work-related factors associated with these injuries. Nail gun-related injuries occurring among a cohort of 13,347 carpenters in Ohio who worked union hours during the time period January 1, 1994, until September 30, 1997, were identified by matching the cohort with workers' compensation claims made to the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation. We also analyzed workers' compensation claims for North Carolina Home Builders Association members for the period July 1996-November 1999 to identify nail gun-related injuries. Analyses included stratified analyses of claims by nature and body part injured, calculation of nail gun injury rates, and analyses of free text descriptions of injuries. Overall, nail gun injuries were responsible for 3.9 percent of workers' compensation claims with 8.3 percent to 25.5 percent of claims involving paid lost work time. The overall rate of nail gun injuries (cases per 200,000 work hours) was 0.33 in North Carolina and 0.26 in Ohio, reflecting the greater concentration of wood frame construction workers in the North Carolina population studied. Higher rates of injury were observed for carpenters in North Carolina and among residential carpenters in Ohio. The predominant body part injured was the hands/fingers, with 80 to 89 percent of injuries being nail punctures. Analyses of free text information for puncture injuries found approximately 70 percent of injuries to occur during the framing/sheathing stage of construction. Our data suggest that approximately 69 percent of puncture injuries may be due to an inadvertent gun discharge or misfire, preventable in large part by the use of sequential triggers. Worker training and education also are important components of nail gun injury prevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Occupational / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Construction Materials / adverse effects
  • Facility Design and Construction*
  • Humans
  • North Carolina / epidemiology
  • Ohio / epidemiology
  • Population Surveillance
  • Washington / epidemiology
  • Workers' Compensation / statistics & numerical data
  • Workforce
  • Wounds, Penetrating / classification
  • Wounds, Penetrating / epidemiology*