BITCO Insurance Companies

Nail Gun Injuries

Release Date: 

April 25, 2008

An article in The Sacramento Bee newspaper, “Investigative Report: Nail gun safety under fire as injuries soar,” describes safety issues related to nail gun use. The author of the article, Andrew McIntosh, tracks the rise in injuries when nail guns are used in the automatic mode, known as “contact trip.” The compressed air nail gun can shoot 30 nails a minute that travel up to 490 fps (334 mph), qualifying the nails as low-velocity missiles. In contact trip mode, pulling the trigger will fire a nail whenever the muzzle makes contact with any surface, including the human body.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), California companies reported 1,890 nail gun injuries leading to missed work days during the period 2003 to 2006. A more comprehensive national estimate found that 42,000 people with nail gun injuries show up at U.S. hospital emergency departments annually. Others are treated at clinics or at home. This represents more than 100 injuries per day.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that treating nail gun wounds costs the United Statesat least $338 million a year in emergency medical care, rehabilitation, and workers' compensation. That’s 10 times the cost of treating jigsaw, power sander, or band saw injuries, and doubles that for handsaws. Emergency room physicians, forensic engineers, attorneys, and occupational safety researchers believe that a majority of nail gun injuries could be prevented by limiting the guns to a one-at-a-time sequential firing system.

According to the article, about five years ago, the nail gun industry started to make semiautomatic guns that require users to pull the trigger each time they fire. Manufacturers also began to sell larger framing guns with an even safer system known as “sequential mode.” With this method, a nail only shoots when the muzzle is placed on a target and the trigger is pulled, in that sequence. Yet many manufacturers continued to ship those guns with a kit to convert them back to the more dangerous contact mode.

In his research, the author found that many years ago manufacturers had invented and patented safer trigger designs. Some companies had even restricted sales to safer models; but, when their nail gun sales fell and they found out that the worker in the field was altering the sequential mechanism to fire on contact or simply with the pull of a trigger, the companies reverted to their original designs.

The article, which provides many examples of injuries and research data on the extent of the problem, may be found at (

Additionally, on 13 April, 2008, nail gun injuries received national attention from the ABC News’ article, “Nail Gun Injuries Surge - Emergency Department Visits Triple in 16 Years, and Do-It-Yourselfers Increasingly Among Victims.” The article may be found at

COPYRIGHT ©2008, ISO Services Properties, Inc.

The information contained in this publication was obtained from sources believed to be reliable. ISO Services Properties, Inc., its companies and employees make no guarantee of results and assume no liability in connection with either the information herein contained or the safety suggestions herein made. Moreover, it cannot be assumed that every acceptable safety procedure is contained herein or that abnormal or unusual circumstances may not warrant or require further or additional procedure.

COPYRIGHT ©2008, ISO Services Properties, Inc.