Toolbox Talk: Nail Guns

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CPWR - The Center for Construction Research and Training

Summary Statement

The CPWR Toolbox Talk on Nail Gun Safety addresses the risks associated with operating nail guns. The resource includes a ‘real-life’ case example, steps to prevent a related injury or illness, and questions for discussion. It includes an image (page 2) that illustrates the hazard, which can be posted in a central location as a reminder of steps to work safely.   Click on the following links to access the English version and the Spanish version. (English) (Español)

CPWR Toolbox Talk logoNail guns (nailers, pneumatic hammers, pneumatic nailers, and air-powered nailers) are fairly new types of tools. If the nail is not properly aimed and is shot before the operator is ready, it becomes hazardous. Many nail gun-related injuries occur from trigger misfires. Examples of misfires include double firing and unintended firing from accidental contact with the gun or a coworker.


Here is an Example

Sam, a roofer in San Francisco, was using a nail gun when a fellow worker walked by and accidentally bumped into him. Sam was unable to control the nail gun and accidentally fired a nail into his foot. He was immediately rushed to the hospital. Sam had to wear a cast on his foot for more than a month. While his foot healed, he was unable to stand for a long amount of time. After his cast was removed, he was able to return to work.

  1. What tools and equipment should be used when handling a nail gun?
  2. Do we know where these tools and equipment are kept at your job?

Preventing Injuries from Nail Gun Use


  • Always wear safety glasses.
  • Use hearing protection as necessary, according to the job environment.
  • Wear steel-toe boots as the work environment dictates.
  • Always aim the tool away from the body and other people. This is especially important when it is connected to the air supply. It is possible for the trigger to stick in the activated position. If this occurs the gun will fire even though you have not touched the trigger.
  • Always disconnect the compressed air when leaving a nailer unattended, traveling up and down a ladder or stairs, passing the nail gun to a co-worker, clearing jammed nails, or performing maintenance.
  • Use a hammer if you cannot reach the work while holding the nailer with your dominant hand.
  • Ask for a nail gun with a sequential trigger rather than a contact trip trigger. The latter “bump nailers” allow continuous nailing whenever the trigger and nose are depressed, but they have double the injury rate of sequential trigger nailers.
  • Take extra care with toe-nailing because the gun cannot be held flush against the work piece.
  • Get trained, even if operating sequential trigger nailers.


  • Don’t hold down the trigger unless intending to fire the tool, especially when walking or climbing a ladder.
  • Don’t point the tool at anyone, even if it is empty or disconnected from the air supply.
  • Don’t fire the tool unless its nose is placed firmly against the work piece.
  • Don’t rest the tool against any part of the body.

What Are We Going to Do Today?

What will we do here at the worksite today to prevent injuries from nail gun use?







OSHA Standard: 28 CFR 1926.302

Graphic of a worker using a nail gun while wearing proper safety equipment.

  • Always wear safety glasses.
  • Ask for a nail gun with a sequential trigger rather than a contact trip trigger.
  • Take extra care with toe-nailing because the gun cannot be held flush against the work piece.