MRO Magazine

Using pneumatic nail and stapling tools safely

Hamilton, ON -- Recently, there were news reports of an Australian woman accidentally shooting herself in the head with a nail gun. Thankfully she survived the injury; however the incident is a solemn reminder of the hazards of using powerful...

Health & Safety

October 29, 2010
By MRO Magazine

Hamilton, ON — Recently, there were news reports of an Australian woman accidentally shooting herself in the head with a nail gun. Thankfully she survived the injury; however the incident is a solemn reminder of the hazards of using powerful nailing and stapling tools on the job or at home, says the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.

Pneumatic nail and stapling tools are powered by compressed air. They were first used in industry, however they are increasingly being used in home environments and by hobby builders. The biggest advantage to using them is they enable you to rapidly fire nails and staples into wood repeatedly.

Pneumatic nail guns and stapling tools are extremely efficient and take hours off a project completion timeline, but they can also be extremely dangerous if the user does not know how to properly use them. You should know the basic safety guidelines before starting the task at hand.



There are several general safety principles that you should always follow when using a pneumatic nailing or stapling tool. First and foremost, only experienced and trained people should operate the tools. If you are unqualified and given a task that requires the use of either of these tools, inform your supervisor immediately in order to receive the proper training.

When using a pneumatic nailing or stapling tool be sure to always wear proper safety equipment, such as safety glasses, goggles or a face shield. And because many tools can be extremely loud, use hearing protection where necessary. Avoid creating trip hazards by leaving hoses laid across walkways or curled underfoot.

You should handle the tool at all times as if it is loaded with fasteners (nails, staples, etc.).


Before using any air pressure tool, you should inspect it before connecting it to the air supply:

– Check the tool safety mechanisms.
– Tighten all screws and cylinder caps securely.
– Check for correct air supply and pressure.
– Check that the tool is correctly and securely connected to the air supply hose, in good working order and has a fully operating safety mechanism before using.
– Equip tools with a work-contacting element that limits the contact area to one that is as small as practical.
– Make sure the mechanical linkage between the work-contracting element and trigger is enclosed.

When not in use and during cleaning or adjustment, disconnect the tool from the air supply. If a blockage occurs, be sure to push the trigger to exhaust all air from the tool before clearing the blockage.

Remember to only use fasteners recommended by the manufacturer and permit only properly trained people to carry out tool maintenance.


– Do not point the tool toward yourself or anyone else – whether it contains fasteners or not.
– Do not operate at a pressure above the manufacturer’s rating.
– Do not push the trigger unless the nose piece of the tool is directed onto a safe work surface.
– Do not load a tool with nails or staples while the trigger is depressed.
– Do not overreach – always keep proper footing and balance when using the tool.
– Do not use compressed air to blow debris or to clean dirt from your clothes or work surface.
– Do not carry a pneumatic tool by its hose.

Before using a mechanical tool, make sure you are properly trained on its use and informed about any potential hazards. It is best to err on the side of caution, so if you feel you are not qualified to use that tool, inform your supervisor. Without proper safety precautions, using powerful tools can have serious consequences and cause you or someone else harm.

Learn more about pneumatic nailing and stapling tools or basic safety for pneumatic tools from OSH Answers at

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