Lisa Pompeii, Ph.D.
Purchasing a nail gun with a sequential trigger and reading safety instructions are among the top precautions nail gun users can make to protect themselves, according to a researcher at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) who was part of a team investigating safety education that accompanies nail gun sales.
The team, led by researchers at Duke University Medical Center, visited more than 200 businesses that sell or rent nail guns and posed as new users who were interested in purchasing a nail gun. The businesses, which included home improvement stores and companies that sell directly to builders or contractors, were located in Texas, North Carolina, West Virginia, southwestern Pennsylvania, Missouri and southern Illinois.
At each visit, researchers gave sales personnel a chance to volunteer safety information about the tools and if that information was not provided, researchers asked a general question about the safety of the tools.
Texas was selected as one of the locations for the study because of its large construction industry, according to Lisa Pompeii, Ph.D., co-author of the study and assistant professor of epidemiology at The University of Texas School of Public Health, part of UTHealth.
According to study results, which are published online in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 59 percent of salespeople failed to provide any information for safe use. Sales personnel from almost 75 percent of the businesses researchers visited provided some source of misinformation, although 62 percent of salespeople had previously used a nail gun.
“A staggering number of nail gun injuries are incurred annually by workers and consumers,” said Pompeii. “These findings highlight the need for sales personnel to not only be educated about the risk factors associated with nail gun use, but how to convey this information to consumers.” More than 35,000 injuries from nail guns are treated in U.S. emergency departments every year and about 14,000 are among consumers who are doing their own home improvement projects, according to the researchers.
“We see nail gun injuries related to the lack of users taking simple safety precautions,” said Samuel Luber, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of emergency medicine at UTHealth Medical School.
Injuries sustained from nail guns can range from minor to life-threatening such as traumatic brain injuries. Emergency center doctors also encourage nail gun users to use extreme caution when using these tools based on the injuries they’ve seen. In addition to following safety precautions provided by nail gun manufacturers, Luber also warns users to wear high-impact resistant eye protection.
“There have been cases where the nail or piece of a nail ricochets off the intended target and enters the eye at a high-velocity projectile,” he said. “This can be a vision-threatening injury.”
Experts recommend consumers purchase nail guns with a sequential trigger, which requires the nose of the gun to be pressed against the surface before the trigger is able to be pulled and the nail is discharged.
“Although these tools are readily available, and sales personnel may not provide consumers with information about the dangers involved, they should not assume that these are safe and easy to use,” said Pompeii.
“It’s alarming that a consumer, whether it’s a contractor buying for their working population or a home user buying for their own use, doesn’t get better information – particularly given the devastating nature of some of these injuries and the risk of ‘stand-by’ exposures to other workers or family members,” said Hester Lipscomb, Ph.D., lead author and professor in the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at Duke University.
Salespeople in outlets that sold primarily to contractors were more likely to offer safety information, but only half of them did. During the team’s assessment, researchers were often assured that the tools were safe to use, even in the context of a salesperson also relaying a story about someone who got hurt. One employee explained the tools were safe but then indicated you could shoot a nail through your hand. According to researchers, the attitude toward being injured seemed accepted and one salesperson in a lumberyard stated, “Get a buddy and the operator’s manual and four or five beers and you’re good to go.”
“It is important for consumers to know that these tools are potentially dangerous and can result in serious injury for themselves and for bystanders in the area where the nail gun is used,” said Pompeii.
Additional co-authors of the study include James Nolan and Dennis Patterson of the Carpenters District Council of Greater St. Louis; and Mark Fullen and Brandon Takacs of Safety and Health Extension Service at West Virginia University
The Center for Construction and Research Training funded the research.
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