Top 10 Pneumatic Tool Safety Tips for Improved Workplace Safety

Date of post: March 04, 2020   By: Mike Butler
Updated on: June 8, 2023

Pneumatic tools, or air tools, are handy and portable alternatives to electrical tools both in industrial settings and construction sites. They are often lighter and smaller than electric or gas-powered tools, making them a preferred choice for workers in all industries. However, because of the unique components involved in the operation of pneumatic tools, they do require special handling and care.

We wanted to share some general safety and operational tips to help improve the safety and productivity of your pneumatic tool program.

How Pneumatic Tools Work

Unlike battery-powered or standard power tools, pneumatic tools are powered by compressed air. This fundamental difference impacts the various components that enable operation.

The compressed air can be pulled directly from the environment using a compressor, but must first be filtered to remove contaminants and moisture before entering hose lines and pneumatic tools. Some systems may require lubrication schedules to avoid corrosion or may rely on cylinders and valve seals made from nitrile instead. Corroded tools can result in trigger misfunction which can result in injury or damage to a workpiece.

Compared to another common power source for tooling, hydraulics which rely on hydraulic fluid to operate, pneumatic tools are cleaner (limiting worker and environmental exposure to chemicals) and typically less expensive to set up. However, they can be less powerful compared to their hydraulic counterparts and less precise.

Risks Associated with Pneumatic Tool Use

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 pneumatic tool risk factors 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.

We want to help you make safety a part of your everyday routine.

Does your team follow the right safety protocol when using, storing and transporting their pneumatic tools? Did you know there are about 37,000 ER visits due to avoidable pneumatic nailer accidents every year?

An effective safety program that addresses the use of pneumatic nailers can reduce the likelihood of those injuries and create a safer work environment for all. Watch some of these quick safety videos and then schedule an onsite safety training program for your team.

Schedule Your Free Safety Training

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).

Top 10 Pneumatic Tool Safety Tips from LINC Systems

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. Take a look at our Safety Product Catalog.

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

Related: How to Choose the Right Pneumatic Trigger for Improved Tool Safety

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.

Watch: LINC Systems Stay Safe Pneumatic Tool Safety Tip: Always disconnect your air lines

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

Print Your FREE Pneumatic Tool Maintenance & Safety Checklist.

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.

For more safety tips on using your pneumatic tools, visit our YouTube channel and subscribe!

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