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Worker Survives Nail-Gun Shot to Head

Monday, August 15, 2011

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A Texas construction worker is expected to make a remarkable full recovery after being accidentally shot in the head with a four-inch nail.

Doctors at the Medical Center of Plano, TX, said the man had been working at his job at a construction site on Friday (Aug. 12), when someone handed him a nail gun. The gun somehow went off and fired a four-inch barbed nail into the dominant lobe of the man’s brain, according to the local Fox News affiliate.

“The skull itself stopped the nail, just like if it was fired into wood,” said Dr. Rob Dickerman, the neurosurgeon who performed emergency surgery to remove the nail.

 X-ray of nail in skull and the barbed nail, after removal
An X-ray (left) shows just how far into the skull the nail went; the barbed nail (after removal) is at right.

“The head of the nail, once it hit the skull, stopped,” Dickerman told Fox News.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the accident.

Neither the man’s name nor the name of his employer was released, and it was not immediately clear who fired the gun.

‘An Interesting Case’

The surgery to remove the nail was extremely delicate and exacting, risking paralysis or death if unsuccessful, Dickerman said.

“You make a wrong move or a millimeter away here or there, it can be a disastrous outcome,” he told the news channel.

However, the surgery was successful, and the man is expected to make a full recovery, Dickerman said.

“He awoke and did fine,” the surgeon said. “The scans looked good. There really wasn’t a drop of blood on the post-op scan. He did very well. An interesting case with a great outcome, and those are always the best.”

Nail Gun Dangers

Nail gun injuries are not uncommon, according to the CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training, which published a Hazard Alert on Nail Guns in 2008.

 Nail through fingers

 CPWR:  The Center for Construction Research and Training

Tens of thousands of nail gun injuries occur each year, about two-thirds of them to the hand and fingers.

One significant danger, the alert warns, is that nail guns have two types of triggers: a contact trip trigger, which can fire anytime that both the trigger and nose of the gun are depressed; and a sequential trigger, which requires the nose (contact element) to be depressed before pulling the trigger. The sequential trigger minimizes the risk of accidentally discharging the nails.

The problem, CPWR says: The two triggers look exactly alike.

In 2008, 28,600 workers were injured by nail guns, according to the U.S Centers for Disease Control. About two-thirds of nail gun injuries are to the hand and fingers.

Treating nail gun wounds costs the U.S. about $338 million a year, including rehab and compensation payouts, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Construction; Equipment; Health and safety; OSHA

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