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Young worker injured by nail gun

An apprentice was injured by a nail, fired from a nail gun by another worker, which went through the piece of timber he was holding and into his chest. The worker underwent minor surgery to remove a small piece of bone. Investigations are continuing.

Preventing a similar incident

Most injuries from nail guns are caused by the user accidentally striking the gun's muzzle into a part of the body while holding the tool's trigger switch. However, there is also a risk of nails penetrating a person's body as a result of:

  • direct contact with the muzzle of a loaded gun
  • deflection, when skewing off a hard surface
  • firing through a soft material.

Working off ladders or awkward positions can also expose workers to the projectile path of a nail gun. In such circumstances it is important that the correct type of nail gun is selected. A sequential fire nail gun allows for only a single fire from the trigger once the muzzle makes contact. These nail guns reduce the risk of accidental firing when handling the gun and when in restricted work areas.

Bump fire nail guns allow repetitive firing of nails whilst the trigger is engaged and every time the muzzle is bumped. While ideal for reducing the risk of musculoskeletal injury for jobs that involve high volume production and repetitive tasks, bump fire nail guns must never be used:

  • when the user is required to climb ladders or other elevated areas with a loaded gun
  • in restricted and tight spaces where the gun's muzzle could be bumped
  • when other people could come within the nail gun's firing path, or there is a foreseeable risk of being struck by a flying nail (e.g. by ricochet or deflection).

All workers who use any type of nail gun should be trained in how to use it safely. Training should cover:

  • the safe operation of the nail gun
  • PPE requirements
  • any other specific directions as stated in the manufacturer's manual.

Nail guns must also be maintained to ensure the firing mechanism is operating correctly. Any problems with the tools should be repaired by a competent person (i.e. an authorised agent) or be replaced.


Since 2012, 112 incidents involving nail guns have been notified to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, and 12 improvement and 8 prohibition notices have been issued.

During the same period there have been 44 claims for workers' compensation for injuries received as a result of being shot with a nail gun.

More information

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