A Wisconsin man who came perilously close to death after accidentally shooting a nail into his heart while working on his house calmly drove himself to the hospital and parked his pickup truck in the lot before walking into the emergency room. (Aug. 16)
A Wisconsin man who doctors say came perilously close to death after accidentally shooting a nail into his heart while working on his house calmly drove himself to the hospital and even parked his pickup truck in the lot before walking into the emergency room.
Doug Bergeson is ready to get back to work this week after surviving a June 25 ordeal that others might not have taken in such stride. Bergeson was working on framing in a fireplace at his house when his nail gun accidentally fired, sending a nail ricocheting off some wood and into his chest.
“I thought it just nicked me. I looked down. I couldn’t see anything,” Bergeson said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press. “I felt OK. I wasn’t worried about the injury. I couldn’t feel any pressure or blood building up.”
As he tugged at his sweatshirt, the 52-year-old said he realized only about an inch of the 3-inch nail was sticking out of his chest.
“I could see the nail moving with my heartbeat. It was kind of twitching with every heartbeat,” said Bergeson, who lives near Peshtigo in northeast Wisconsin.
He was more annoyed than worried. He knew he had to go to the ER.
“I was frustrated because I knew I wasn’t going to get home until late and I couldn’t get anything done,” Bergeson said, adding that “common sense,” told him not to pull the nail out.
So he washed up, hopped in his truck and made his way to Bay Area Medical Center in Marinette, about 10 minutes away. After parking his truck and walking into the ER, Bergeson said he started to feel more pain and summoned a security guard for help.
“If you could find someone that would be great, I’m just going to sit down,” he told the guard.
Still thinking he would soon be on his way home after a little medical attention, Bergeson texted his wife, Donna, to bring him a new shirt because medical staff had cut off the one he was wearing.
After X-rays were taken, Bergeson was rushed by ambulance to Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay. “I offered to drive myself, but they wouldn’t let me,” Bergeson said, chuckling.
Dr. Alexander Roitstein confirmed the nail hit Bergeson’s heart, saying it was also 1/16 of an inch from a major artery. He said it was difficult to assess how deeply the nail penetrated, but the nail left bruising and a nail-sized hole.
He commended Bergeson for not pulling the nail out and letting doctors handle it. “It shows the great composure this gentleman had after a very bad day’s experience,” Roitstein told WBAY-TV
Bergeson spent two days in the hospital and has been recovering at home. He will be able to return to work this week at the Village of Lena waterworks plant. He also has a vegetable farm and a construction business.
“I feel pretty good. I’m back to doing things carefully,” he said. “It was a pretty awakening experience.”
Source: AP & ABC 7 Chicago
Nail guns are used every day in many construction jobs and in homes and cause tens of thousands of painful injuries each year. Get the latest information on nail gun hazards and practical advice you should take to prevent injuries at your job site.
Nail guns are powerful, easy to operate and boost productivity for nailing tasks. They are also responsible for an estimated 37,000 emergency room visits each year – 68% of these involve workers and 32% involve consumers. Severe nail gun injuries have led to construction worker deaths.
Fortunately, these injuries can be prevented, and more and more contractors are making changes to improve nail gun safety. Research shows that risk of injury is twice as high using “contact” trigger nail guns compared to “sequential” trigger nail guns.
How do Nail Gun Injuries Happen?
There are seven major risk factors that can lead to nail gun injury. Understanding them will help you to prevent injuries on your job sites.
- Unintended nail discharge from double fire;
- Unintended nail discharge from knocking the safety contact with the trigger squeezed;
- Nail penetration through lumber work piece;
- Nail ricochet after striking a hard surface or metal feature;
- Missing the work piece;
- Awkward position nailing; and
- Bypassing safety mechanisms.
It Can Happen to You
Here are two stories of nail gun injuries that hammer home the issue of nail gun safety.
From a construction worker’s standpoint:
Two framers were working together to lay down and nail a subfloor. One framer was waiting and holding the nail gun with his finger on the contact trigger. The other framer was walking backward toward him and dragging a sheet of plywood. The framer handling the plywood backed into the tip of the nail gun and was shot in the back. The nail nicked his kidney, but fortunately, he recovered. As a result of this incident, the contractor switched to using only sequential triggers on framing nail guns. Co-workers can get injured if they bump into your contact trigger nail gun. You can prevent this by using a full sequential trigger.
From a contractor’s standpoint:
After his crews experienced many double fires and a related serious nail gun injury, a New Jersey contractor switched to using only sequential triggers. He believes he has eliminated the risk of double fire injuries and he estimates that the change has had only a slight impact on productivity—a few extra hours per house.
6 Practical Steps You Can Take
By taking these steps, employers can prevent nail gun injuries from occurring:
- Use full sequential trigger nail guns;
- Provide training;
- Establish nail gun work procedures;
- Provide personal protective equipment (PPE);
- Encourage reporting and discussion of injuries and close calls; and
- Provide first aid and medical treatment.
Two new documents strive to help prevent nail gun injuries and keep construction workers and consumers safe. The first, “Nail Gun Safety: A Guide for Contractors,” developed by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), was developed for contractors. The second, “Straight Talk About Nail Gun Safety,” is worker-focused.
A comic book based on NIOSH supported research, Nail Gun Safety: A Guide for Construction Contractors
Our hope is that by working together with tool gun manufacturers, safety and health professionals, and other organizations, we can improve nail gun safety on the job site. View a message from the Directors of NIOSH and OSHA supporting the nail gun safety guidance. NIOSH-OSHA-Nail-Guns-Cover-Letter.pdf [PDF – 289 KB]
Nail Gun Safety: A Guide for Construction Contractors [PDF – 1,618 KB]