This news article featured in issue no.15 in CHSP’s June – July 2022 newsletter


This article is inspired by a recent accident at one of CHSP client sites.

These tools are very handy yet very dangerous tools that are used for a multitude of tasks including plaster boarding, stud walls, laminating structural headers, roofing, wooden fencing and other carpentry joinery work. They are handy because they take an array of different sized nails and are adjustable for driving nails through different depths, suitable for different jobs. Some guns take nails as well as staples. Some nail guns are powered with air compressors electric or gasoline/ fuel powered or battery operated.

Safety is of paramount importance with these tools, it is no accident they are called guns, they shoot at a rapid and potentially hazardous speed. There have been a number of reported injuries from nail guns, deliberate and otherwise,  in the eyes, the hands, the feet, the thigh and one report of a man who shot himself in the heart.  Nail guns shot in the wrong place can cause lasting nerve damage, organ damage and fatalities.


Important things to consider :



Is using a nail gun the safest solution to complete the task? If not then reconsider.



Prior to buying a nail gun, think about the practicality of the type of nail gun to use in the environment to be worked in. For example is an air nailer practical in a construction site environment.


Noise and Vibration

Consider also noise exposure and vibration exposure levels consider getting a tool that gives less or the least exposure for the likely duration of work. You can ask for the operating manuals or tool specifications to get the exposure level prior to purchase. If the company selling it cant give you this information look up the make and model and find the information online. Dont buy one blindly. The HSEs ready reckoner can help you get a better understanding of what the tools level of exposure over time is likely to be.


Maintenance and pre use checks

You do not want to be botching a fix, use trained individuals, refer to the manufacturers instructions (operating manuals) on how often maintenance should take place, how it should be conducted and what type of maintenance is to take place.


Pressure vessels pipes compressor

For air nailers its important to ensure these are properly connected so the device does not malfunction when in use.


Competent use

Adequate knowledge, training and supervision is necessary. Its generally advised that young persons are not to be tasked with using such a tool, as they are often inexperienced, are still under training and supervision and are less aware of the dangers. A young persons risk assessment for the specific individual will outline what precautions are to be taken and may deem this task a high hazard to be avoided.



No horseplay, ensure the tool is in the right hands and that workers know how important it is to air on the side of caution when using a nail gun, these are not to be pointed at or shot at anybody in jest or otherwise. Unfortunately sense isnt always common and so workers should be reminded not to put their hands in front of above or below to hold components together, near where the nail gun is pointing, nails can bend and cause injury.


Health matters

Check the vibration and noise exposure information in the manufacturers instructions so workers can be informed of the maximum exposure times to ensure they dont exceed them. Ensure there is a system of monitoring exposure takes place and documentation kept for reference purposes.


Health surveillance

Workers should be subject to occupational health check that can allow for early identification of issues which can result in audiometry tests and physical check for signs of circulation problems in the hands.



Safety signage can be used to worn others of nail guns being used in the ares, as well as other measures to prevent others from unecessarily coming in to the area of work which could cause a distraction.


Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

PPE is the last line of defense and should never be solely relied upon as a safety measure. Consider the best PPE to reduce noise and vibration exposure, refer to the noise risk assessment and noise monitoring results that will take into account the level of noise in the environment as a whole as well as the manufacturers operating manual to help determine the correct PPE. These should be specified in the risk assessment.


To seek further guidance on nail gun safety please refer to the UK’s HSE nail gun safety guidance.