Friday, May 09, 2008

Assault Weapons On the Jobsite

File Under: Gimme a frickin' break.

Investigative Report: Nail gun safety under fire as injuries soar

With a 2 1/2-inch nail deep in his chest, construction worker Manuel Murillo slid into a pickup truck, bracing himself for a desperate seven-mile drive down a snowy Sierra road.

His friend and co-worker, Salvador Cardenas, was driving. When they finally got cell phone reception, Murillo, 30, called his wife in nearby Portola to tell her there had been an accident. He had shot himself with a nail gun while working on a mountain cabin. And he was going to die.

"I love you," he said, before hanging up.

Murillo had been struck down by a popular tool of his trade – the air-powered nail gun – equipped with a mechanism that allowed automatic firing.

Oh no! Efficient tools! Eeeeek!!!

As the tool's popularity surged during the building boom of the 2000s, a Sacramento Bee investigation found, nail gun injuries also took off despite decades of warnings from researchers and doctors that the guns are dangerous, especially in the automatic mode known as "contact trip."

You mean, more nail guns in use didn't result in fewer nail gun injuries? Wow. What are the odds of that?

Driven by compressed air, the brawniest nail guns can blast 30 nails a minute that travel up to 490 feet per second, qualifying the nails as low-velocity missiles.

As opposed to what? Super-low-velocity missiles?

In contact trip mode, with one pull of the trigger, they fire those missiles whenever the muzzle makes contact with a surface – including heads, hands, eyes and even chests.

Sorry, but if you're pressing a nail gun into your eye hard enough to allow the trigger to engage, you're pretty much scraping gray matter already.

California companies reported 1,890 nail gun injuries leading to missed work days from 2003 to 2006, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That tally includes a small portion of those injured in part because undercounting is widespread, according to a 2006 report by the state Legislative Analyst's Office.

A more comprehensive national estimate found that 42,000 people with nail gun injuries – more than 100 a day – show up at U.S. hospital emergency departments annually. Others are treated at clinics or at home.

Treating the wounds costs the United States at least $338 million a year in emergency medical care, rehabilitation and workers' compensation, according to a Consumer Product Safety Commission estimate. That's 10 times the cost of treating jigsaw, power sander or band saw injuries, and double that for handsaws.

Actual hours of usage of jigsaws, power sanders, and band saws in use conveniently left out of the discussion, I see. I'd be more than comfortable saying that nail guns are used more than ten times as much as band saws in the construction industry when you add up all the hours of use for either tool.

But, why let facts and figures interfere with a good fear-mongering session? Especially when you're on such a good PSH-saturated roll as this one.

Working on scaffolding 7 feet off the ground, Murillo and Cardenas shared the Hitachi gun. At one point, Cardenas recalled during a tearful interview, he heard the tool fire and Murillo yell. When he turned to look, Murillo was grabbing his chest.

Murillo had bought the gun just a few weeks before at a local hardware store, according to a Plumas County Sheriff's Department report.

Time to close the "hardware store loophole"!

It had two firing modes, a contact trip and a semiautomatic single shot, with a toggle switch between the two.

AAAGHHH!!! SEMIAUTOMATIC MISSILE LAUNCHERS!!! I think I may have pooped a tiny bit in my pants. Hold me!

Murillo's gun was switched to contact trip, according to the state investigation into his death.

The gun was hanging from the end of the scaffolding, at chest level. Cardenas thinks that as Murillo turned sideways to pass the gun, he accidentally bumped into it.

And accidentally pulled the trigger at the same time?

Or do you suppose it's more likely that this guy had a piece of wire wrapped around the handle tying the trigger back?

"Dude, look. It's like wicked fast now!"

I'd love the be the judge on this case. I'd set up a 4x6 piece of lumber on a couple saw horses in the courtroom and ask the guy's lawyer to demonstrate with a similar Hitachi nailer how the thing just "went off" by only being bumped on the business end of it.

After the guy tries and fails, I'd take a piece of wire and tie the trigger back and run a whole stick of nails into the wood in about 20 seconds by swinging the nailgun from the airhose.

In fact, I might just take my framing and finish nailers out tomorrow and do it myself. It's been a while since I had any good video to post. I bet I can trash this guy's entire case in less than five minutes. Two words: USER ERROR.

Following repeated calls for safer firing mechanisms and millions of dollars in legal payouts to injury victims, the nail gun industry in 2003 started to make semiautomatic guns that require users to pull the trigger each time they fire.

Unlike semiautomatic "assault weapons", which we all know are "spray-firing bullet hose".

Seriously, though, this "blame the tool" shit is getting ridiculous.

Fairfield carpenter Jack Sperduto fired a nail into his hand at Travis Air Force Base in 1998. The wound left behind nerve damage and pain so excruciating that years of treatments, surgeries and drugs didn't relieve it, leaving his hand useless and his head filled with suicidal thoughts, medical reports show.

Sperduto sued Senco, the manufacturer, and won $960,000.

But, of course. Who could have foreseen bad things happening as a result of placing one's hand in the line of fire of a pneumatic nailer?

Edward Ramos was a carpenter with Ralph Rocca Construction Inc. in Apple Valley in June 2005 when his boss directed him to use his nail gun to attach metal hurricane straps to wood trusses, a state investigation report says.

Ramos told crew leader Randy Cannon that the smaller palm hammer was better for the job because big nail guns are awkward in tight angles. Cannon said the palm hammer was "in the shop," Cal-OSHA documents state.

Ramos repeatedly said he didn't want to use the nail gun. He had no safety glasses or other eye protection. Cannon responded that he had "faith that (Ramos) could get it done using the nail gun."

A short time later, Ramos felt something slam into his face. His right eye started bleeding.

A co-worker drove Ramos to Victor Valley Hospital. From there, he was airlifted to Loma Linda University Hospital, a nail lodged in his brain.

You wanna blame a tool for this? Start with tool who told his worker to proceed with his work in an unsafe fashion. I own several pneumatic nailers and staplers, and have driven 1000's of fasteners with them over the years. Yet, somehow, I have managed to refrain from shooting myself in the head, hand, chest, groinular region, etc.

How can that be? I must have achieved some kind of Jedi-like mastery over these violent and deadly objects (which are only slightly more complicated than a desk stapler to operate safely).

Anyway, it's late and I'm tired. But, I do have one more vitally important point to make before I hit the sack.

Randy Cannon is one serioulsy awesome pornstar name.

(link via Say Uncle)