Hester Lipscomb, PhD
This research team’s success in reducing pneumatic nail gun injuries over a 10-year period among union carpenters in residential construction in St. Louis and southern Illinois has prompted similar
efforts in the non-union sector, including recruitment of contractors in West Virginia. As
before, the focus remains on training in tool use, specifically the use of the safer tool: nail guns with a sequential trigger.
With the support of the West Virginia Home Builders Association, researchers have begun to recruit small non-union subcontractors. They hope to kick off the initial training in the first quarter of 2011.
Meanwhile, to evaluate the impact of training on both union and nonunion
workers, injury and hazard surveillance specific to residential sites
continues. As might be expected, data collection among the union population
is further along. However, the economic downturn in residential
construction in the Midwest has caused a slowdown in the gathering of
that data and a reduction in the number of potential respondents.
Fortunately, the researchers’ ties to two training schools have enabled
them to meet with apprenticeship leaders and instructors to review the
logistics of data collection. Thus far, the team has collected surveys from
more than 700 apprentices.
To monitor their progress and assess medical problems associated
with tool use, researchers have developed a questionnaire for the
collection of surveillance interview data from carpenters reporting
musculoskeletal disorders. They have also modified this tool for nonunion
workers to establish baseline measures for evaluating the
residential non-union sector.
To put their own findings in perspective, the team is tracking national
injury patterns among consumers and workers based on emergency
department visits for nail gun injuries captured by the National
Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) data for 2008-2012. So far, 2008 is the most recent year for which NEISS data is available.
The project also has a public policy component -- to bring about changes that 1) promote use of the safer sequential trigger mechanisms, and 2) define minimal training requirements for nail gun
use. To that end, the team has shared its research with the Safety and Research subcommittee of the National Association of Homebuilders, the OSHA Stakeholders meeting and a group of safety investigators attending a symposium in Copenhagen, Denmark.
To create awareness about the hazards of nail guns among end users and the general public, the team has created a Safety Alert and enlisted help from a variety of stakeholders in distributing it. The latter includes the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Virginia Tech’s construction
advisory board and Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. The researchers have also secured funding for development of a website that will serve as a repository of resource materials on nail gun injuries
for contractors and academics alike.
Research Team and Partners: Carpenters District Council of Greater St. Louis and Vicinity; Carpenters Joint Apprenticeship Programs, St. Louis, Mo., and Belleville, Ill.; Mark
Fullen, EdD, West Virginia University; West Virginia Home Builders Association.
Pneumatic nail guns have become a common tool in wood frame construction and they are now a leading cause of acute injuries among residential carpenters. Puncture wounds to the hands and fingers are most common, but there are also devastating, even life threatening, injuries associated with the use of these tools. Lack of training in tool use and use of tools with contact triggers are now known risk factors for injury. The project we propose builds on our demonstration of a 31% injury reduction among union carpenter apprentices in the St. Louis area as more hours of their tool use were with the safer sequential trigger and as they received early training in tool use. We propose a multi-faceted project focused on further reduction of nail gun injuries in residential construction through wider diffusion of these effective interventions, targeted outreach, and evaluation. In addition to continued work in the St. Louis area, we now plan outreach efforts to residential contractors in West Virginia with a largely non-union workforce. Active surveillance methods will be used to support ongoing evaluation in both the union and non-union sectors. We will also continue passive surveillance of emergency department visits for nail gun injuries using the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) data for 2008-2012; this allows us to monitor national injury patterns among consumers and workers. Lastly a significant effort in this project will focus on outreach to policy makers, OSHA representatives, residential contractors, insurance companies and the general public with the goal of ultimately influencing policy changes that will support use of the safer trigger mechanism and definitions of minimal training requirements.
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