Nail-gun injuries shoot up

Hospital emergency room visits due to nail-gun injuries among do-it-yourself carpenters tripled between 1991 and 2005 in the United States, a new analysis shows. Nails driven into hands or fingers accounted for two-thirds of the wounds.

Between 2001 and 2005, U.S. emergency rooms treated roughly 37,000 people annually for pneumatic nail-gun injuries. Nearly 15,000 of these were weekend carpenters, a yearly figure far outpacing the 4,200 such do-it-yourselfers in 1991.

While people employed as carpenters account for a majority of injuries each year, their mishap rate has held steady since such data on workers’ injuries were first collected in 1998, says Hester Lipscomb, an occupational epidemiologist at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.

Lipscomb teamed with Larry L. Jackson of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention office in Morgantown, W.Va., to analyze injury data compiled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) from 101 hospital emergency rooms across the country. By sampling these reports, CPSC and the researchers were able to estimate the nationwide incidence rate. The findings appear in the April 13 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Many of the injuries occur when a nail gun discharges inadvertently—often when a safety feature has been disabled for rapid nailing, Lipscomb says. Also, a properly fired nail can ricochet off one that’s already set or run through a piece of wood into a body part, she says.

Injuries are up among do-it-yourselfers not only because they are less experienced than professionals but also because nail guns are more available and less costly than ever, says Lipscomb.

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