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Safe use of nail guns

July 05, 2020

Nail guns are widely used in construction, but they are dangerous tools and serious injuries occur regularly from nail guns that are incorrectly used or used carelessly.

Many incidents occur when the nail gun is triggered inadvertently. This can happen while setting down or carrying the nail gun with the trigger pressed if the contact tip is accidentally depressed. Incidents are also common when using a nail gun in ‘bump fire’ mode that allows nails to discharge continuously by pressing the gun’s contact tip against the workpiece.

Injury can also happen when using nail guns in a restricted area, or when fired nails ricochet from other nails, or from metal or timber knots. Nail gun injuries are common among inexperience workers such as young apprentices.

How to prevent injury

There are a number of ways to reduce the possibility of injury:

  • Avoid using bump fire mode if possible.
  • Do not use bump fire nail guns in restricted spaces or in areas where other workers are in close proximity.
  • Ideally use only a full sequential nail gun. That is, a nail gun for which the contact tip must first be pressed against the workpiece before pressing the trigger allowing the nail to be discharged. This reduces the risk of unintentional nail discharge.
  • Make sure workers are trained in the safe use and operation of nail guns. This includes making sure that the operating instructions for every nail gun to be used are understood and that the manufacturer’s specifications for correct fasteners are followed.
  • Make sure workers wear personal protective equipment such as eye and hearing PPE.
  • Make sure inexperienced operators, such as apprentices and trainees, are supervised by a competent person when using nail guns.
  • Regularly inspect and maintain nail guns and associated equipment to ensure they are in good working order and safe to use.

Further Information

Your local State or Territory workplace health and safety authority may have specific requirements in relation to the use of nail guns. Make sure to seek this information from their website:

For further advice HIA members can contact HIA’s Building Services team on 1300 650 620 or email

Need assistance with your safety?

HIA Safety has a team of qualified consultants that understand the construction industry. Our specialist team provides consultancy and innovative solutions to meet the needs of all our clients. This ensures that you have the correct systems and processes in place to best protect your staff, other contractors, clients and your business.

Call us on 1300 650 620 or visit HIA Safety to see how we can help your business meet the relevant workplace health and safety requirements.