5 Safety Tips to Consider When Using Air Tools

Air guns are an excellent solution to any job or application due to their speed and cost efficiency. However, these tools are extremely powerful and call for immense caution when utilizing their capabilities. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that about 37,000 people are sent to the emergency room every year from injuries involving pneumatic tools.

Here are five safety tips to consider when working with pneumatic tools on the job site:

1. Follow the Manufacturer’s Instructions and Use Their Parts

This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s crucial to read the manufacturer’s instruction manual before operating their tools. Every pneumatic gun operates differently despite similitude with another air tool. Ensure that there are no signs of damage or defects before use.

In addition, it’s important to only use parts or attachments from the same manufacturer (or parts that the manufacturer recommends.) Unsuitable parts or attachments can affect the functionality of the tool, possibly leading to accidents. For example, inserting the wrong fastener into a pneumatic gun can cause jamming or misfiring.

2. Protect Yourself and Others from Flying Debris

It’s imperative to keep all workers safe on a job site where air guns are being used. Material such as debris, fragments, chips, and dust are flying in the air during use of a pneumatic tool. Be sure that your team is wearing eye protection whether it be safety goggles/glasses or a face shield. Moreover, your team should consider ear protection as these types of tools can create loud noise, especially in conjunction with one another.

It’s also recommended to post warning signs on a job site that uses pneumatic tools. This is to ensure that those in the area are aware of the potential for flying debris and loud noise. In addition, it’s advised that you set up screens and shields in the space where air guns are being shot. Even if some workers are not handling a pneumatic tool, they are still at risk of airborne material.

3. Keep Your Air Tools in Good Shape

Like any piece of equipment, it’s crucial that your pneumatic guns are regularly maintained. Be sure to clean and lubricate your tools according to your manufacturer’s instructions; Debris can easily be trapped within an air gun which can create complications. Without lubrication, the O-rings will dry out and the cylinder will begin to rust. This not only affects the functionality of the gun, but it puts the user’s safety at risk.

4. Use Pneumatic Guns with a Full Sequential Trigger

Choosing an air gun with a full sequential trigger can greatly lower risk of injury. NIOSH reports that full sequential is the safest type of trigger for a pneumatic tool. To shoot a nail or pin, the user must activate the controls in a specific order. The safety contact tip and trigger must be released and activated as well in order to fire a nail or pin. This prevents accidental firing, one of the major causes of injuries with air guns.

Do not attempt to disable any of these safety features. Although contractors fear that precautionary steps involved with full sequential triggers will affect production time, studies suggest that the skill of the worker is a larger determinant than the type of trigger.

5. Seek Medical Assistance in Case of an Injury

Don’t be stubborn if an accident occurs—call for emergency services immediately. Despite if there’s an absence of excessive bleeding, most air tool injuries cause structural damage like bone fractures. Those who suffer from a pneumatic gun injury are also at risk of infection from nail strip glue, plastic, and debris. Do not attempt to remove the nail yourself as barbs can create additional complications.

Always keep a first aid kit on hand with clean bandages, antibiotics, and other antidotes that remedy bleeding. Ensure that your team is prepared for any emergency by providing training or explicit instructions. Many injuries involving pneumatic tools are severe and possibly fatal. By taking these steps, your team can work safely and productively.

Check out these references for more information about pneumatic gun safety:

Nail Gun Safety: A Guide for Construction Contractors

Compressed Air & Gas Institute (CAGI) Safety Guide


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