Injury prevention

Studies have shown that risk of injury from use of nail guns is higher if you have not been trained in their proper use. Because training is not required for operating a nail gun, it may be challenging to find a class. Contact your community college or hardware retailer to find out about training. Training by an experienced user can be helpful. Regardless, observe the safety tips listed below.

Safety tips

Nail guns injuries don’t have to happen. Consider these precautions:
  • Use only a nail gun with a sequential trigger mechanism.
  • Never aim or fire a nail gun towards or anyone near you.
  • Do not press the trigger unless the nose of the gun — the contact element — is pressed firmly against the work material.
  • Don’t ever hold your finger near the trigger when carrying the nail gun, even though the trigger is the tool’s center of gravity.
  • Clear jams or adjust the nail gun only when it is disconnected from the air supply.
  • Avoid nailing into knots or metal, since nails are more likely to ricochet. Dense materials such as laminated beams are also difficult to nail.
  • Don’t remove or bypass safety devices, triggers or contact springs.
  • If a nail gun is not working correctly, tag it and take it out of service. Defective tools are dangerous.


These tips were prepared by the Sacramento Bee as part of a series of articles and videos on nail guns.

Can you identify this trigger?
Can you identify this trigger? Appearance alone won’t tell you if the gun you’re using is equipped with a contact or sequential trigger. Learn to tell the difference. Then choose the sequential trigger.

Safer at any speed.

Safer at Any Speed: Nail guns are equipped with either contact or sequential triggers. Both triggers look the same, but operate differently. With sequential nail guns, the tool will fire only one nail when pulling the trigger. With a gun equipped with a contact trigger, if you keep the trigger pulled while pushing the gun against a surface, the gun will continue to fire. Studies indicate use of sequential nails guns reduce incidence of injuries without affecting speed of operation.

Use the right nails. Depending upon the nail gun in use, nails may be aligned straight or slanted.  When loading, always ensure that the gun is not attached to the compressor hose. If the gun should misfire or jam, always detach the gun from the compressor hose before adjusting the gun.

Read the label: it’s not enough that nail guns come with safe use instructions. Read them and follow them.








Off the trigger: Never carry a nail gun with your finger on the trigger. If the gun is equipped with a contact trigger, it could fire when the nose makes contact with any object, including your coworker.

Keep your distance: When operating a nail gun, keep as much distance as you can between your free hand and the nail gun.


Bottom first: Always fire the bottom nail first when connecting a stud to a top or bottom plate. If you fire the top nail first and the gun recoils or fires twice, the second nail may skip through the wood and puncture your hand that’s holding the stud in place. Instead, nail the bottom first, then release your grip on the stud before firing a nail into the upper position.

Safe distance: When climbing or descending a ladder, put some distance between you and the nail gun. Point the nose of the nail gun away from you and others.  Don't drop the tool by the air hose.

Tight spaces: Obtaining a proper angle can be difficult when firing nails into backing placed between studs. To minimize risk, move the hand that’s holding the backing further from the point of contact. Alternatively, considering using a hammer.

Getting Attached: Pull the collar back on air hose, while placing the front of the nail gun away from you and others. Push down, then release the collar. Wear PPEs not just when operating a nail gun but when attaching the gun to the compressor. Place the gun in front of you on a work surface or the ground, to give you more leverage.





Protect yourself: When nailing overhead, remember to take your finger off the trigger as you lower the nail gun.  Recoil when nailing in this type of position can be especially dangerous with a contact trip tool.  If the user loses control the gun can hit him and inadvertently discharge a nail.