According to a study by the National institute of Health, it takes 50,000 to 70,000 nails to frame the average new house. The tool of choice for this job in Illinois and in construction markets across the country is the nail gun, a useful but potentially hazardous implement that can shoot a projectile up to 1400 feet per second. Nail gun mishaps account for 15 percent of hospital admissions for construction workers who suffer contact injuries. Nail gun injuries represent the greatest single source of injury among framers, roofers and workers who put in flooring.
Dangerous tool of the trade
The majority of nail guns are powered by pneumatic air pressure supplied by either compressed air or by an explosive charge. They operate using one of two kinds of trigger systems. The contact trip trigger can release multiple nails in quick succession. The sequential trigger mechanism releases one nail at a time, and the nose must be in contact with the surface before the gun is operable. Sequential triggers pose about half the risk of contact trip triggers to construction workers.. When used properly, the single release system gives the worker the greatest control with the least risk of projectile ricochet. A personal injury attorney in Chicago would know that contact trip mechanisms may be unintentionally triggered more easily, raising the risk of a flying nail or multiple nails puncturing the operator or someone else on the site. Contractors have different standards for which type of nail guns they use. Some companies specify that when both types of mechanisms are available, experienced journeymen use the contact trip tools while apprentices use the sequential mechanisms. Other companies do not have specific standards in place.
Where and how accidents happen
According to a joint study by the University of North Carolina and Duke University, airborne nails cause 41 percent of puncture injuries. Over two thirds of injuries reported happen during the framing and sheathing processes in wood construction. Roofing accounts for another 16 percent of the injuries. Factors that make using a nail gun more treacherous include reaching, nailing into an awkward space and using the nail gun with a non-dominant hand. A significant number of accidents occur because a worker keeps his or her finger on the trigger when the gun is not in use. A personal injury attorney in the Chicago area could say that a disorganized job site can contribute to injury as well.
Inexperience a risk factor
The University of North Carolina and Duke University research states that disabled or bypassed safety features on nail guns cause the highest percentage of puncture wounds in nail gun accidents. Lack of proper training may be at fault for many accidents that happen when an inexperienced worker either fails to use the safety mechanism or fails to engage it properly. Inexperience may be to blame, as well, for construction injuries that occur when a worker fails to adjust to the recoil of the nail gun after it is fired. Improper technique may lead the gun to refire unintentionally. The NIH reports that since nail guns are considered simple to operate by many construction professionals, new and untested workers are often supplied with nail guns and put directly to work. The rate of injury is up to three times higher for untrained workers than for people familiar with the tools and how to use them.
Types of injury
Nail guns are capable of causing extensive damage. The majority of injuries occur to the hand, but projectiles have been reported to penetrate the abdominal wall, the upper leg, the thorax, the pelvis, facial bones and the skull. Injuries have resulted in bone fractures, bowel perforation spinal cord damage, and more. A personal injury attorney in Chicago would be aware that nail guns are capable of causing fatal injury. Damage to skin tissue and injected foreign matter make nail gun wounds particularly susceptible to infection. Care must be taken to ensure that an injury does not worsen due to bacterial spread.
Underreporting of accidents
A separate report by Duke University addresses the experience of apprentices in the construction industry. The research states that many nail gun accidents among new workers go unreported. Fewer than one-fifth of the new workers who suffered bodily injury reported it as a workers compensation accident. According to the report, 73 percent of the workers who failed to file did not think their injuries were serious enough to report. Many of the research participants said they felt that getting shot by a nail gun was just a part of the job. Other reasons people did not file included the following:
- Overseers paid for medical care out-of-pocket.
- Apprentices reported an injury to an overseer and were ignored.
- New workers felt pressured by safety incentive programs.
- Workers felt that reporting an injury threatened their employment status.
Sometimes workers were asked to avoid workers compensation by filing insurance claims directly through their own private insurance policies. A personal injury attorney in Chicago understands that workers compensation exists to provide funds for medical care in the event of an injury.
Seek counsel after an injury
In addition to loss of income, a nail gun puncture or other type of injury on the job can lead to long-term physical damage. If you or someone you love have been injured at work, a Chicago personal injury attorney may be able to help you take action to receive appropriate compensation.