Shop Talk

The "How to" of July 2012

  • How To Use Pneumatic Tools Safely

     10 Tips to Keep You Safe and Smart

    Nail guns and other pneumatic tools are incredibly useful, efficient machines. With intense power and precise firing capabilities, a good nail gun can save countless hours of work and innumerable sore thumbs, arms, hands and backs. With that intense power, though, and their trigger actuated, high-velocity firing, these air tools can also be extremely dangerous. Accordingly, and like other power tools (or even trigger-actuated weapons), properly operating pneumatic tools requires diligently following a few safety measures. Use caution, common sense and adhere to these few rules to ensure your pneumatic tools can be as harmless as they are helpful – keep these guidelines in the forefront of your brain, and you’ll surely enjoy the safest, most productive performance from your air tools.

    1. Be Familiar With the Air Tool and its Manual

    Before operating an air tool, familiarize yourself with its manual (which will be rich with tips and facts) and with the tool itself. Because nail loading and other functions differ between tool makes and models, it is important to understand the ins-and-outs of the particular nailer you’re about to engage.

    Some nail guns fire only once per trigger depression, some guns offer a sequential firing mechanism which allows users to fire repeatedly when the trigger is continually depressed and the nose piece is simply “bumped” (this firing method is often referred to as “bump firing”). Additionally, some air tools can switch between these two modes. Know what kind of gun you are firing and, if you have the ability to select between  firing methods, always know which mode the tool is operating in.

    2. Inspect the Air Tool, the Air Compressor and the Air Hose Before Each Use

    Before engaging an air, give it a quick once over. Ensure everything looks as it should; ensure that the right fasteners are loaded and that the safety is working properly. Also check for punctures or weak spots in the air hose which may fail under pressure and cause damage to you or to the nail gun. Ensure the hose is properly secured between the tool and the compressor and, similarly, ensure the compressor is in good working order. Use only regulated compressed air and do not exceed the recommended air pressure capacity for each particular tool in use.

    3. Protect Your Senses – Wear Safety Gear

    Despite your speed, wit or strength, a sharpened steel projectile rocketed out of a pneumatic gun will not stop for your flesh, fingers or eyeballs. Where safety glasses during every minute you are operating or near an operating nail gun. Because brains and other body parts are similarly vulnerable to projectiles or debris and because ears and hearing are similarly susceptible to damage from the repeated high-decibel bursts of a nail shot, always wear a hard hat and adequate hearing protection when using (or when in the vicinity of active) pneumatic tools.

    4. Know When to Disengage an Air Tool

    Disengage an air tool every time it is not in use. Even if you simply need to eat a sandwich or use the “powder room,” always disengage a nail gun that is not in use. Similarly, disengage an air tool before loading it, while adjusting it, while clearing jams and etc. If a nail gun jams or otherwise malfunctions, the fastener will be waiting to eject it when that problem is fixed. To avoid that nail rocketing into your leg or your coworker, disengage the tool before servicing it.

    5. Know How to Disengage an Air Tool

    Because an air tool becomes so pressurized during use, it is important to remain cautious while disengaging the tool. First, turn on the gun’s safety and/or turn off the tool. Disengage the compressor and disconnect the air hose. Because the depressurization of the tool may eject debris from the nail gun, do not aim the tool at anything or anyone, and do not point the gun toward yourself; debris can be ejected at staggering velocities. Please use caution.

    6. Use Only the Proper Fasteners

    Always use the fastener size your air tool was designed for. Using incorrect fasteners will cause jams and misfires, can cause serious damage to the tool, and can cause very painful injury to you or others in your work area.

    7. Be Aware of Your “Blast Radius” and Surroundings

    Before you fire an air tool, be aware of every body (animate and inanimate) in your work area. Always know what is on the opposite side of your nail gun and what is behind the material your fastening. Because you can’t see through the wall you’re sheathing, know what’s behind it and warn others of your work area.

    It’s also important to inspect the material your fastening. Imperfections in wood like splits, knots, difficult grain structures or existing fasteners can cause a nail to shift or behave unpredictably; a fastener may deflect off of a nailing surface or pass entirely through that surface embedding in whatever is on the other side. Accordingly, be cautious of each point of entry; avoid firing fasteners tool close the edge of your material, never fire a fastener on top of another fastener, never fire a nail gun at an angle and never fire a fastener into something you (or someone else) is holding. As a rule of thumb, you should maintain a distance of at least twice the length of your fastener from the point of fastener entry.

    8. Don’t Fiddle With the Trigger (or Nose Piece)

    Never touch the trigger of an air tool unless you are entirely prepared to discharge it.

    Do not touch the nose piece of an air tool to anything you do not intend to shoot.

    Be aware of how you handle, hand-over, and set-down an air tool. Ensure the nose piece touches nothing but the surface you intend to fire into. When the gun is resting, ensure it is secure and not susceptible to jostling; bumping a nail gun may result in unintentional firing.

    Never pull the trigger of air tool twice at the same point of entry. After depressing the trigger, immediately release it and remove your finger from the trigger. Firing twice will result in two nails shot which is both wasteful and terrifically dangerous.

    9. Properly and Maintain Air Tools and Air Compressors

    Properly and regularly maintaining your air tools and air compressors is an integral part of using these tools safely and efficiently. Keep your tools clean and inspect them routinely. Oil your nail gun each time you use it and, because water will accumulates inside your compressor during operation (and will subsequently cause rust and water damage), drain your air compressor after each use.

    10. Don’t Be Ridiculous

    And by ridiculous, of course, I mean dumb. Don’t be dumb. This is perhaps the most important rule of safety when operating air tools (and, perhaps, more generally speaking as well). Don’t be dumb. Use your common sense and always operate machinery with great caution. Don’t ever point an air tool at something you don’t intend to shoot. Always be in control of your nail gun. Your nail gun is not a toy nor a hammer. And seriously, never tape or otherwise force down the trigger or nose piece of an air tool; that is stupid and unforgivably dangerous. Don’t be reckless, always be accurate and, again, please for the sake of all our hands, fingers, shoulders and knees, don’t be ridiculous – be careful.

    And, for the most part, those rules should keep you safe while operating air tools. Be smart and expect those around you to act smart, too. Being always aware is the best way to keep yourself in one happy piece and the best way to yield the best performance from your air tools. Best of luck and happy firing!