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Consumer Nail Gun Injuries Spike

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Duke Health News 919-660-1306

DURHAM, N.C. -- According to new statistics that would make
Bob Vila cringe, the number of injuries from nail guns has
almost doubled since 2001. And researchers say that more and
more it is do-it-yourselfers who are feeling the pain.

In fact, the number of weekend carpenters treated each year
for nail gun injuries in emergency rooms in U.S. hospitals more
than tripled between 1991 and 2005, increasing to about 14,800
per year, according to an analysis by researchers at Duke
University Medical Center and the National Institute for
Occupational Safety and Health.

Nail guns typically use compressed air to drive nails into
wood. First used by construction workers and professional
carpenters, the guns now are sold routinely in hardware stores
and home improvement centers.

The Duke researchers said that many injuries caused by nail
guns could be prevented by using tools that fire only when the
nose piece is depressed before the trigger is pulled. This
"sequential" trigger mechanism is designed to prevent rapid,
unintentional firing, but it has not been used as much as tools
that allow the user to rapidly "bounce fire' nails.

The findings appear in the April 13, 2007, issue of
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published by the federal
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"These kinds of injuries are often seen as bizarre
accidents, but they actually occur fairly frequently and we
know quite a bit about factors that contribute to them," said
Hester Lipscomb, Ph.D., an associate professor of occupational
and environmental medicine and author of the new report. She
has long studied nail gun injuries among construction workers,
but she says this is the first such analysis of injuries among
consumers.

"The increases in injuries are likely related to
availability of these tools on the consumer market and the
steady decline in the costs of tools and air compressors,"
Lipscomb said. "The frequency of such injuries that are treated
in emergency departments in professional workers have remained
relatively flat; however, the tools are now readily accessible
to consumers, extending what has been largely an occupational
hazard to the general public."

For her analysis, Lipscomb used data collected from
emergency departments across the country by the U.S. Consumer
Product Safety Commission and the CDC's National Institute for
Occupational Safety and Health.

Injuries to consumers and workers largely involve puncture
wounds to the hands and fingers, with wounds to the forearms,
wrists, legs and feet less common. Of the injured consumers and
workers, 6 percent were admitted to the hospital, while the
others were treated in the emergency department and
released.

About 96 percent of the injured consumers were male, with an
average age of 35.

Lipscomb believes the widespread adoption of safer
sequential-trip triggers could reduce the number of injuries,
both for professional and weekend carpenters.

"While safety training offers an important way of reducing
injuries, we believe that the adoption of the safer triggers
would be more effective, especially since many consumers – and
even workers -- do not receive adequate safety training," she
said. She also said many users are not aware of the different
types of nail gun triggers and thus may not be able to make a
fully informed decision.

Lipscomb recommends that consumers purchase nail guns with a
sequential-trip trigger or purchase kits to convert their
current nail gun triggers to the safer type.

"The increased production of new nail guns with the
sequential-trip trigger and the availability of conversion kits
at home improvement centers will hopefully go a long way toward
reducing injuries," Lipscomb said.

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