Top 10 Pneumatic Tool Safety Tips for Improved Workplace Safety

Date of post: March 04, 2020   By: Mike Butler

Pneumatic tools, otherwise known as air tools, are powered by compressed air and can be used in a variety of applications. The most common types of pneumatic tools are air-powered hand tools like nailers, staple guns, buffers, grinders, rivet guns, sanders and wrenches. While these powered tools are efficient and effective, there are several things to consider when it comes to the safe and proper handling of your pneumatic tools.

What is the biggest danger associated with pneumatic tools?

The main danger facing tradespeople and weekend warriors alike is the risk of getting hit by one of the pneumatic tool’s attachments or by the nails, rivets, staples or other fasteners being applied with the tool. Projectiles and other flying objects travel at high rates of speed and can quickly pierce or penetrate the human body. Most commonly, injuries occur to the hands and fingers, but injury to legs, knees, thighs and feet run a close second.

So, how likely are nail gun injuries? Based on a study of apprentices, OSHA found that:

  • 2 out of 5 were injured using a nail gun during their 4 years of training
  • 1 out of 5 were injured twice
  • 1 out of 10 were injured three or more times

Other risks associated with pneumatic tool use include:

Dangerous Noise Levels

Pneumatic tools, or any power tool for that matter, can generate dangerous levels of noise. With air-powered tools, there is often discharge either at the tool itself or nearby. That sound is typically not muffled and can exceed permissible exposure limits (PEL). Establishing a hearing conservation program and supplying employees with hearing protection like earplugs, earmuffs or hearing bands can help.


Regular use of air-powered pneumatic tools can lead to ergonomic hazards that include excessive vibration, awkward postures and repeated exertion. Anti-vibration gloves and ergonomic floor mats can alleviate some of these concerns.

Trip Hazards

Avoid trip hazards that can occur when hoses are left on walkways or underfoot by paying close attention to the location of the air hoses in your facility and placing them out of the way when not in use.

Accidental Activation of Tool

Whether the cause be a faulty trigger, hose failure or human error, there is a chance for your air powered tools to activate accidentally, which could lead to serious injury. Always disconnect your pneumatic tools when they are not in use.

Improper Securing of Parts or Attachments

OSHA requires safety clips to be securely installed and maintained on pneumatic tools to prevent attachments from being accidentally expelled. They also require pneumatic tools be connected to the hose or whip by some positive means to prevent the tool from becoming accidentally disconnected.

Understanding OSHA's Regulations for Pneumatic Tool Safety

29 CFR 1926.302 (b) Pneumatic Power Tools

OSHA is particular about the safe and proper handling of pneumatic tools and provides several rules that employers and their employees must follow. And, for good reason. Failing to follow these regulations can result in serious injury or death. The standard ensures that all pneumatic tools are designed and used in accordance with the best engineering practices that exist to ensure the safety of all affected workers.

For additional information on OSHA’s Construction Standard for Pneumatic Power Tools, review 29 CFR 1926.302 (b).

LINC Systems Top 10 Pneumatic Tool Safety Tips

When working with pneumatic-powered nail guns, drills, hammers and air guns, we recommend you follow these pneumatic tool safety precautions:

1. Always read the manual.

Before operating your pneumatic tool and air compressor, be sure to read the coordinating manufacturer operating instructions. They will provide tool specific information on the handling, usage, warnings and maintenance procedures to follow for the highest level of safety.

2. Wear proper PPE.

High-impact eye protection like safety glasses or goggles is required when working with pneumatic tools, but complete head and face protection can be used for additional protection. In addition, it’s recommended that the employer provides safety toe shoes or work boots, hard hats and hearing protection at no cost to their employees.

3. Know your trigger.

Improving your pneumatic tool safety program starts with understanding the various types of trigger mechanisms and the contact safety tip. The way a trigger functions is dependent on the order in which controls are activated and whether the trigger discharges multiple nails or single nails when activated. Various trigger types can include:

  • Full Sequential Trigger
  • Contact Trigger
  • Single Sequential Trigger
  • Single Actuation Trigger

4. Follow manufacturer guidelines for air pressure.

Maintain safe air pressure ranges for tools, valves, and fittings. When cleaning surfaces keep air pressure below 30 psi and never “dead-end” compressed air against yourself or anyone else. And, never use compressed air to clean oneself or clothing.

5. Use relief air coupler on the tool.

A relief type air coupler is the only way your tool should be connected to an air supply. It’s a quick connect with a pull-down sleeve that allows compressed air in the tool to be relieved when disconnected. It reduces the risk of accidental discharge after the tool has been disconnected.

6. Only use recommended air compressor.

Know the capabilities of the air compressor you plan to use with your tool. Check the CFM rating and pounds per square inch (psi) to make sure they are compatible with your pneumatic tool’s manufacturer recommendation.

7. Never carry tool by the hose.

Do not carry or hold pneumatic tools by the hose or connections. This could put undue pressure and stress onto these components, which can lead to early failure of the hose and/or injury.

8. Never modify your tool.

Never disable or bypass pneumatic tool safety features. Any kind of tampering to the tool, trigger or other components will greatly increase the chances of injury or unintentional firing of the tool.

9. No horseplay.

Many injuries occur because of horseplay. Never point a tool at yourself or others or use the tool in a way it was not designed for. Otherwise, the results could be dangerous, if not deadly.

10. Disconnect from air supply when not in use.

Always disconnect your tool from the air supply and remove magazine any time that your pneumatic tool is not in use. This prevents accidental discharge from occurring when you are taking a break, at lunch or finished working for the day.

Bonus tip: An often-overlooked pneumatic tool best practice is to secure pneumatic tools with lanyards when working at height.

LINC Systems is here to help you work safely and productively. Sign up for our StaySafe! Pneumatic Tool Safety Training for more safety tips and materials. If you have any questions on the pneumatic tools, compressors or fasteners you need to operate your business, please click here to contact us. Or, give us a call at 800-513-9918.

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