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Don't Get Nailed: A Guide to Avoiding Nail-Gun Injuries

Wherein we, um, hammer home safety tips for one common power tool

Safety Tips

Photo by Kaj R. Svensson/Photo Researchers Inc.

Despite the jokes that so often seem to accompany media reports of nail-gun accidents, the rising frequency of such injuries is nothing to laugh at: There are some 14,800 incidents a year among nonprofessionals, according to reports. Most injuries are simple, treatable puncture wounds. But gun-driven nails can also cause more serious problems. They're powerful enough to fracture bones, including the ones that surround your very delicate gray matter. To keep yourself safe, read your tool manual. Then post these additional tips from This Old House general contractor Tom Silva near your workbench.

Tip #1: Avoid Itchy Trigger Finger

Photo by M. D. Bates/Custom Medical Stock Photo, Inc.

Take your finger off the trigger immediately after you've driven in a fastener. And never carry the nail gun with your finger cocked to shoot.

Tip #2: Choose the Safest Model

Photo by Michael English/Custom Medical Stock Photo, Inc.

Use a model with a sequential-trip trigger. It only fires after the nose is pressed against the workpiece. Contact-trip is ready to shoot at rest.

Tip #3: Get the Right Gear

Photo by S. Grover/Custom Medical Stock Photo, Inc.

Wear safety glasses. As careful as you are, a nail can still glance off hidden knots and other nails to nail you.

Tip #4: Watch Out Where You're Pointing

Photo by M. D. Bates/Custom Medical Stock Photo, Inc.

Never aim the business end at any hand or any body part. Even from the other side of a workpiece, nails may go through and hit you.

Tip #5: Don't Get Hooked

Photo by B. Slaven/Custom Medical Stock Photo, Inc.

Keep digits at least 10 inches to the side of the impact point. Fired nails can fishhook, poking through unexpectedly.

Tip #6: Unplug

Photo by Edward Kinsman/Photo Researchers, Inc

Remove the gun from its power source. That's a must when loading or when clearing jams.