Crane Army Ammunition Activity
When I was 17, I spent a summer working in framing construction. My boss, Adam, was very experienced and knowledgeable, so I knew I was in good hands. The two accidents he said would happen to me were I would fall through a ceiling brace and I would tag myself with a nail gun. Adam didn’t tell me how to avoid these accidents. Instead, he just said to be careful and not hurt myself too badly. I was determined to ensure his predictions didn’t come true.
It was a July day like any other in southwest Missouri. When I arrived at work at 6 a.m., the temperature was already pushing 75 F. About lunchtime, Adam took a couple of other workers to look at a prospective housing site on the north side of Springfield. I was left alone with Derek, another worker who had six years of experience in the framing business.
For the past week, I had been working with a pneumatic nail gun and was getting accustomed to the tool’s action. Adam had showed me how to use the gun and taught me the different sounds it made, such as when it’s out of nails, a nail gets stuck in the gun or a nail has missed a board. I was pretty confident I could handle any of those problems.
After lunch the temperature topped 100 F, so I took off my shirt and got back to work. I climbed up onto a ceiling brace, looking into the garage, and started nailing support braces on the bottom and top of the set-up board. Each side of the board required a brace; however, because the garage had three beams that ran across its length, this was a difficult task. It was also risky for a falls because you can’t really balance yourself on a board while using a pneumatic nail gun. I figured if I just reached over the set-up board and nailed the brace from that side it would be a lot easier. So I started nailing the board with the nail gun pointed back toward my body.
I knew that last sound meant the nail had missed the board, so I put the gun down. I looked up at Derek, who was above me on the roof, and said, “I guess I missed.”
Derek just stared at me wide-eyed. He then spit out his dip and told me to remain calm and still. As he came rushing down the roof toward me, I looked down to brush off my pants. But something else caught my eye. There, sticking out of my gut, was half of a nail. I’d really done it — I nailed myself big time!
Once Derek made it over, he grabbed me and his phone and rushed us toward his car. I asked where we are going, but he just told me to get in and lay down in the backseat. As Derek drove me to the emergency room, he called Adam, who thought he was joking. Derek was having trouble describing what had happened and just told Adam to meet us at the emergency room. He then handed me his phone and said, “Call your mother.”
“No,” I screamed. “She will flip out. I’m fine. I don’t want to bother her with this. It doesn’t hurt and I’m not even bleeding. Derek, this isn’t necessary!”
Derek then calmly reminded me of the situation. “Dude, you have a nail sticking out of your gut!”
I called my mother and told her what had happened. As expected, she flipped — and not just out of concern, but also out of anger because of my stupidity.
When we arrived at the emergency room, I wasn’t wearing a shirt. The nurse started to say, “Sir, you need a shirt;” but when she noticed the nail, what came out was, “Sir, you need … uh … we need a doctor ASAP!”
As I registered, the other people in the ER were just staring at this teenager with a nail sticking out of his stomach. When Adam arrived, he asked where I’d shot myself. I pointed to my stomach and he stumbled back in shock. Derek and Adam had more than 20 years of experience combined, and this was the worst nailing they’d ever seen.
Eventually the nurse called my name and I was taken to a room. When the doctor walked in, he said, “Oh, dear Lord!” and then pulled out the nail. Surprisingly, there was no blood or pain. There was still an open hole in my stomach, but it didn’t hurt.
The doctor ordered CT scan, which revealed the nail had missed my liver by about a half inch. It was at that point I realized the seriousness of the situation. I could have been killed. Fortunately, I survived to tell my story.
I learned some valuable lessons that day. First and foremost, always use common sense with handling power tools. I can’t believe that I was so stupid to actually fire a nail gun toward me. Also, protective clothing and equipment must be worn at all times when doing construction. After all, sooner or later, everyone gets nailed.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nail guns are the leading cause of injury among residential carpenters, responsible for an estimated 37,000 emergency room visits every year. Puncture wounds to the hands and fingers are the most common injuries, but more serious injuries, even deaths, do occur.
There are seven major risk factors that can lead to nail gun injuries:
1. Unintended nail discharge from a double fire
2. Unintended nail discharge from knocking the safety contact with the trigger squeezed
3. Nail penetration through a lumber work piece
4. Nail ricochet after striking a hard surface or metal feature
5. Missing the work piece
6. Awkward position nailing
7. Bypassing safety mechanisms
The CDC recommends employers take the following steps to prevent nail gun injuries:
1. Use full sequential trigger nail guns
2. Provide training
3. Establish nail gun work procedures
4. Provide personal protective equipment
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention