Straight Talk About Nail Gun Safety

Straight Talk About Nail Gun Safety uses a comic format to illustrate the potential risks of traumatic injury using nail guns and how these risks can be reduced.  Real-life examples from residential building construction are used to explain nail gun traumatic injury risks related to the two different nail gun triggering systems and a variety of residential framing nailing tasks.

The information in Straight Talk About Nail Gun Safety is based on NIOSH focus group discussions with residential building subcontractors, safety specialists and workers.

This publications can be used conjunction with safety training required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or to reinforce previous nail gun safety training.  However, distribution of this publication alone will not satisfy OSHA safety training requirements, which are described in detail in:

Nail Gun Safety: A Guide for Construction Contractors, which can be viewed/downloaded/printed from

Gun Pins Builder to Floor

Do-it-your-selfer pinned to the floor in nail gun mishap. See how it happened.

Nail Gun Triggers

Nail guns are used in connection with virtually every kind of carpentry including framing, roofing, flooring and finishing. Some nail guns are powered by electricity or gas, but most use compressed air. These pneumatic nail guns vary in their application and power, but all are commonly triggered by one of two different mechanisms: contact and sequential triggers. These mechanisms may look the same but they can pose significantly different degrees of risk to operators.

Contact Trip Trigger Mechanisms

Contact trip trigger mechanisms allow the user to fire the tool at any time the trigger and the nose of the gun — the contact element — are both depressed. This enables “bump nailing:” When the operator depresses the trigger, and bumps the nose of the nailer against a surface, the gun will fire. Research shows that nail guns with contact triggers carry twice the risk of acute injury of those with sequential triggers.

Sequential triggers

Sequential triggers require the nose of the gun — the contact element — be depressed before the trigger can be pulled. That helps avoids inadvertent discharge of nails. Research shows that tools with sequential triggers carry half the risk of acute injury associated with contact triggers.