Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP has over 50 years experience in handling all types of construction site accidents. We handle a variety of construction accident cases, including nail gun accidents, scaffolding accidents, elevator accidents, defective machinery accidents, crane accidents, hazardous energy accidents and compressed gas accidents. These accidents often involve injuries such as spinal cord and back injuries, amputations, crushed limbs, burns, traumatic brain injuries, paraplegia and quadriplegia, even death.
Nail guns are becoming a popular tool among all construction workers, home builders, carpenters and "do it yourself" handymen. Unfortunately, injuries associated with nail guns are rapidly increasing and while most injuries involve hands, many injuries that have been reported include head injuries, eye injuries, back injuries and even death. Ricocheting nails or wood, accidental discharge, penetration of structures, falling objects, unsafe location or operation of guns and falls also contributed to serious nail gun injuries.
Injuries from nail guns resemble the injuries from shot guns in many ways. Nail guns are tools used to fire nails into steel, masonry and wood. Nail guns have the capability of firing projectiles up to 10 cm into fully stressed concrete at velocities as high as 1,400 feet per second. High-velocity devices eject nails by detonating an explosive cartridge placed directly behind the gun barrel. Lower velocity nail guns eject nails indirectly by activating a captive piston with either an explosive cartridge or compressed air.
Nails that are joined together by copper wire and adhesive are preloaded into the guns. When the gun is fired, the copper wire (barbs) can fragment and penetrate the skin in much the same way as shrapnel.
Because of the force and power behind a nail gun is designed to pierce hard wood, they are capable of easily puncturing soft tissue, such as skin, muscle, and even eyes. Nail guns can cause severe damage to the body, resulting in:
- Lacerations: All puncture wounds are accompanied by blood loss. Unless a nail punctures a major artery or vein, the blood loss can be relatively minimal and can be stopped with first aid treatment.
- Fractures: In addition to wound, nails can also pierce bones, causing minor fractures to complete breaks. In addition to being painful, these injuries will take longer to heal than soft tissue.
- Injury to joints or tendons: Soft tissue likes joints and tendons control our limbs’ basic movements and can bare the weight of our whole bodies. When pierced by a nail, these parts of the body can take longer to heal.
- Nerve Damage: Though rare, it is possible for a nail to damage the nerves in a victim’s hands or feet, and can cause long-term damage including loss of sensation. Nerve damage can be properly assessed by a physician at an emergency room or if a victim notices any symptoms afterwards.
- Eye Damage: The tissue that makes up the eye is extremely delicate and can be easily damaged if struck by a nail, resulting in vision loss.
- Injuries to internal organs: Wounds to the stomach, chest, or groin can cause internal damage to a variety of vital organs. These wounds require immediately medical care to determine how severe the damage is and if surgery is needed.
- Brain Injuries: Puncture wounds to the brain can very between minor damage to brain tissue to severe damage to a victim’s nervous system.
- Infected Wounds: Construction sites are host to a variety of bacteria and any wound should be immediately cleaned to avoid infection, such as tetanus.
While the majority of nail gun injuries are in the hand, victims should not discount their pain and suffering. Immediate first aid may only account for blood loss and infections, and proper treatment by a medical professional is required, especially for injuries to the head and body. If not properly treated, puncture wounds can cause bones to heal incorrectly or permanent nerve damage.
It is important to note that one should never pull a nail out of their body except by a trained medical professional. Taking out a nail without the proper tools can increase the loss of blood, damage internal organs, bones, or nerves, result in severe pain, or permanently damage the brain. While it may be discomforting, it is best to leave the nail in until arriving at a hospital to receive proper treatment.
Government agencies responsible for occupational health and safety have recommended several measures for safe nail gun handling, including the following:
- Use the sequential trigger (also known as a restrictive trigger or operating in the trigger fire mode). This mechanism allows a nail to be fired only if the trigger has been depressed after the nose guard trigger release has been activated. In addition, it permits only one nail to be fired per trigger activation. As employees gain experience with the tool, the "bump" trigger system can be implemented to reduce the potential risk of musculoskeletal disorders (e.g., trigger finger).
- Manufacturers should work with users and safety professionals to better balance the speed and productivity of using the "bump" mode with the accuracy and potential for fewer acute trauma injuries using the sequential mode. In all cases, the possibility of trigger finger must be considered.
- The male end (nipple) of the compression fitting should be screwed into the tool, and the loose end attached to the air hose should be the female fitting. If reversed, air pressure may remain in the tool after the air hose has been removed, which could allow a nail to be fired even if the hose is not attached.
- Use only clean, dry compressed air at manufacturer-recommended pressure.
- Never use bottled gases or air.
- Secure the hose when working on scaffolding.
- When purchasing or renting a tool, ensure that the distributor reviews the basics of safe tool use.
- Never point the tool at anyone even if it is empty or disconnected from the air supply.
- Whenever the tool is initially connected to the air supply, aim the tool away from the body and other people. It is possible for the trigger mechanism to stick in the activated position; when this occurs, the gun will fire a nail even though the user has not touched the trigger.
- Never assume the tool is empty.
- Do not fire the tool unless the nose is placed firmly against the work piece.
- Disconnect the air hose prior to clearing a jam, repairing the unit, handing it to another worker, leaving the work area or moving the tool to another work area.
- Since sparks can fly from the tool when it is in use, do not operate it near flammable materials such as gasoline, thinner, paint or adhesives. Those materials may ignite and explode, causing serious injury.
- Always wear safety glasses.
Construction workers handle almost every project with their hands and any damage to their mobility can impact their way of life, from general comfort to everyday work. Even beyond hand injuries, puncture wounds to the body, head, or eyes can cause long-term treatment to help the victim recover from severe damage.
In most personal injury cases, compensation can be measured in two forms: economic and non-economic damages.
- Economic damages encompass all financial loss as a result of an injury, including medical costs, wages lost due to an injury, and the loss of work or career opportunities. These damages tend to have a physical bill that can be referred to and can be calculated fairly easily
- Non-economic damages factor in how an injury can effect one’s way of life, including physical impairments, disabilities, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. Generally, these damages due not have a physical bill that a victim can add up. They are very subjective and are subject to local jurisdictions. Currently, New York does not have a cap on the amount of compensation one can receive for non-economic damages.
When filing your claim, your attorney will help you quantify how your nail gun injury has impacted your life and calculate the compensation you should be awarded.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a nail gun accident, the attorneys at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP., would like to meet with you. Please call our office at (212) 986-7353 to set up an appointment to discuss your case.