Effectively operating like loaded guns, powder-actuated tools must be treated with utmost respect and should only be operated by specifically trained workers.
Powder-actuated tools and accidents at work
Injuries by powder-actuated tools can be severe, even fatal if adequate training and personal protection equipment (PPE) are not provided. This is clearly demonstrated by a case in which a carpenter’s apprentice died following an incident in which an untrained operator fired the tool in an attempt to anchor a concrete plywood form. The nail passed through the form, which was hollow, and, after travelling for just over eight metres (27 feet) struck the youth in the head. Neither the operator nor the apprentice was wearing PPE.
Preventing powder-actuated tool accidents
In order to prevent serious work–related injuries, even death, the following safety precautions must be adhered to:
- Always wear appropriate PPE, in particular face and eye protection (operators and nearby workers)
- Never use powder-actuated tools within flammable or explosive atmospheres
- Always ensure (before use) tools are clean and free of obstructions
- Always ensure (before use) all moving tool parts operate freely
- Never point loaded tool at other workers
- Never load the tool unless ready to use immediately
- Never leave loaded tools unattended (especially in areas where unauthorised access is possible)
- Always keep hands clear of barrel end
- Avoid firing into plywood and other easily penetrated materials
The tool should also be designed to allow for varying powder charges. This is necessary to enable operators to select necessary powder levels to work without use of excessive force.
Avoiding powder-actuated tool related work injuries
To prevent workplace injuries by accidental firing of the tool, two separate firing motions are required:
- Positioning the tool
- Pulling the trigger
A powder-actuated tool should not have the ability to operate until it is pressed against a surface with a minimum force of five pounds above the tool’s weight. The tool’s muzzle end should also be fitted with a protective guard or shield to prevent flying particles or fragments from causing injuries at work. The shield or guard should be centred on the barrel (perpendicularly), and the tool should not work without it. Defective tools must be repaired immediately to ensure the safety of workers.
If you were injured due to defective equipment, lack of training or provision of PPE, you may qualify for work injury compensation. Call an Accident Advice Helpline adviser on 0800 689 0500 to learn more or claim for compensation.