April 19, 2007 | Mark Paradies

I Don’t Need No Stinking Interlock!

A report in the Occupational Health and Safety eNewsletter for this week had a great article on nail gun injuries (article). I have used a nail gun to shingle my Dad’s house, and it had an interlock that prevented me from pulling the trigger until the foot of the gun was pushed against the roof. I’ve seen those guns where the professionals just pull the trigger and bounce the gun against the roof, but I assumed that these guns were not available to the regular consumer.

Apparently, I was wrong, and so were the nearly 15,000 people in 2005 who were injured by nail guns. When I Googled for a picture of a nail gun injury, I had so many to choose from that it took a few minutes to work through them. Not a good sign.

Nail Gun Knee.jpg


How do you fix equipment problems like this? First, you must recognize the hazard. This means you need to be informed about what hazards are associated with the equipment. A nail gun may seem obvious (NAILS!!!), but what about the air discharge ports shooting dirt into your eyes? What about damaged airlines pressurized to 150 psi? And where do you use this thing? On a ladder? On the roof? Are you now off-balance using this thing?

Once you recognize the hazards, you must now figure out what safeguards are available. The trigger interlock is a prime example. Sure, you might look cool bouncing that nail gun across the roof, but it isn’t quite as cool when it bounces across your foot. And considering the number of times a consumer uses a piece of equipment like this, how much time is really saved over the life of the nail gun? A couple of hours? Balance this “time savings” against the risks involved, and I hope the answer is clear.

The nail gun is only an example. Take a hard look at the risks you are taking with equipment, both at home and at work. Are you clearing jams in the machine while it is running because “it will only take a minute” and “we’ve always done it that way”? Maybe we should figure out why the machine is jamming in the first place (probably not designed to jam!).

Risk versus time savings. It’s always a gamble, and the increased risk rarely works out in your favor.

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