D.I.Y. Related Emergency Room Visits Increasing

The CDC clams that: “Each year, approximately 36,000 people are treated in hospital emergency departments for injuries using chain saws.” And then, of course, is the fact that although nail gun injuries are increasing rapidly— work-related nail gun injuries have stayed the same. What’s going on here?

You don’t know what the hell you’re doing, that’s what.

From the New York TImes:

Perhaps it’s surprising that there aren’t more disasters. Of course, as any contractor can tell you, there are plenty of close calls, to which homeowners often may remain happily oblivious. David Guido, who runs Witchtree Contracting in Woodstock, N.Y., once stopped by the home of a client who had just bought a kerosene heater and was about to fill it up with a can of gasoline.

“If I had come by 10 minutes later, it would have went up like a bomb,” Mr. Guido said.

He also recalled a man who removed the foundation from beneath his fireplace so he could open up the basement and put in a pool table.

“The whole fireplace was held up by the floor joists,” Mr. Guido said. “I went real quick and got three or four guys off a job and we put up a whole bunch of braces to hold up the house.”

The rest of the article contains various cautionary tales that are both humorous and sobering. Also included are some astute observations, such as:

Sequentially, leaving a nail gun on top of a ladder, then moving the ladder, is never a good idea.” Food for thought. —MEGHANN MARCO

Easy, Mr. Fix-It [NYT]
(Photo: Irish Typepad)


Edit Your Comment

  1. TechnoDestructo says:

    All power tools have gotten cheaper. They’re all more available to the average homeowner, including people who have no business with anything bigger than a Dremel.

    How many people did you know who owned a nail gun 15 years ago? I’ll bet it was significantly less than do now.

  2. Wormfather says:

    See that’s why I keep telling my fiance, I will not be fixing anything. If the light bulb goes out, buy a new house, that’s what I say.

  3. quantum-shaman says:

    well i’m going to start a fundraising campaign and a Million Moron March to put a stop to this. (gimme 40 bucks. here, take this fugly t-shirt.) all chain saws and nail guns MUST be outlawed because… well… you know, when chain saws and nail guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have chain saws and nail guns!! failing that, i’ll parlay this whole thing into a second career by sawing off my own foot and then suing the manufacturer.

  4. revmatty says:

    Cheap tools and Trading Spaces et al are a deadly combination.

  5. Dustbunny says:

    I read that bagel-related injuries are the #1 cause of emergency room visits. I wonder where DIY injuries rank?

  6. mikyrok says:

    @revmatty: yes trading spaces is to blame

  7. cnc1019 says:

    You think a nail gun is bad, now they make air powered screw guns. I can only imagine how much more damage a screw will do to a hand than a nail.

    My brother and I have been using nail guns since we were 10 (helping dad roof houses during the summer) and even though we tried to shoot them at each other, neither of us got hurt (damn safety mechanism). We learned quickly they don’t quite work like they do in Happy Gilmore.

  8. etinterrapax says:

    I was going to say. HGTV makes it look so easy and, dare I say it, fun. A lot of people don’t realize how much strength it takes to control a power tool. I sure as hell wouldn’t mess with a chainsaw. They hardly seem appropriate for most DIY jobs anyhow. A table saw or radial arm saw is usually better, but those cost more and take up space, so.

  9. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    I love DIY projects, but I’ve avoided buying any power tool that can cut any part of my body off, or project metal …I just know myself too well.

  10. chipslave says:

    I made dugouts all thru high school with no probs… (c:

  11. acambras says:


    When I was in grad school, we had access to a wood shop in the basement of one of the design buildings. We were allowed to use just about every stationary piece of equipment (band saw, etc) except the table saw. After witnessing a couple of serious table saw accidents over the years, the wood shop manager restricted that to wood shop staff only.

    The other day I accidentally sliced my thumb with the edge of a metal tape measure (while retracting it). So even the most innocuous tools can be dangerous in the hands of the klutzy. And that one doesn’t even plug in! ;-)

  12. Skiffer says:

    Natural selection.

    I think power tools should become MORE dangerous…

  13. bambino says:

    Location: Undergrad Architecture school woodshop
    Incident: Student sliced thumb off with table saw
    Verdict: Hilariously gross

  14. timmus says:

    A couple of years ago I built a 2-story house with my own two hands. The house is doing great and I never had any noteworthy injuries, even from the nail gun. Well, except one time I stepped on a nail, which taught me the merit of keeping the construction area clean.

    The one thing that I think is absolutely hair-raising is using circular saws on vertical sheathing, i.e. for doing window cutouts. Most jigsaws are too wimpy for the job. So I have no choice but to only do the cuts where I can manhandle the circular saw and keep it from flying away if it snags. I wonder if that’s the sort of task that the tradesmen pawn off to brave day laborers.

  15. gorckat says:

    In my HVAC days, one of the twit helpers on my crew was using a cordless drill to screw together a piece of flexible ductwork (canvas). He was using his leg to support it…and he screwed it to his thigh.

    Almost as funny was our Service Tech helping clean up a job site on day. We had tossed all the trash into the box the furnace came in. We lifted it into the back of the van, but the old equipment prevented it from sliding up far enough to close the doors.

    So he puts his hands on either side of the trash box and starts shoving it making minimal progress. Grunting he bows his head and gives it everything he’s got, causing the box to collapse and a peice of sheet metal to pierce the box and gash his forehead.

    Both injuries probably would have resulted in DIY ER visits, but we had the philosophy that if PVC glue stopped the bleeding, you were fine.

  16. quantum-shaman says:

    @Skiffer: i was gonna say! and point them at your gonads while you’re at it, because we need to clean up the gene pool. (that’s a rhetorical ‘you’).

    back in the day, we used to use sewing machines and scroll saws in *elementary school*. i always thought the whirring blades were MUCH more fun, myself. one day some dumb-assed girl managed to sew right through her own finger, but nobody got sued and life went on. today, toenail clippers and six ounces of lotion are considered tools of the terrorist trade.

    what a world, what a world.

  17. gorckat says:

    @timmus: You just reminded me of when I demoed a couch with a circular saw. Reckless but the lack of injury affirms my Darwinian right to exist :p

  18. Nicholai says:

    My dad runs a automotive repair shop, and you won’t believe all the crazy stuff that happens, (especially to the noob employes) Seats have cought on fire, (and that one car where a gasoline tank leaked onto the exhaust pipe) people have stapled themselves, and one person had a 4-foot tall tool-box fall on them. Experence is the best safety mechanism.

  19. AcidReign says:

    …..I don’t have enough nailing to do at home to warrant buying a nail gun. However, I’ve used one at work. They are incredibly dangerous. The model I used drove blunt-tipped nails into solid oak instantly. Or they will fly thirty or more feet if shot accidentally in the air. And often, two or three nails will pop out at a time in a machine-gun like burst. If your hand is in the way, the nail’s going all the way through, meat and/or bone!

    …..As a palletizer operator for 3 years, I saw at least 5 “take ’em to the hospital” nail gun accidents. (Our company bought nothing but screwed up and broken pallets, and the operators had to nail ’em back together before running cases on them.)

    …..From time to time a pair of operators would square off, pull the guards back on the guns, and have a shootout at each other. Whoever ran for cover first, lost. (Yes, this is the average Alabamian blue-collar mentality. You saw us throwing beer cans at NASCAR race cars last weekend on national TV…)

    …..Then, despite copious machine-gunning skills, I got promoted to supervision. And it became my responsibility to try to keep employees from doing idiotic things… We switched to plastic pallets, thankfully, about 5 years ago!

  20. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @quantum-shaman: Oh, everyone puts the needle through their finger at some point. Did it once when I was a kid, and yelled “MA! I SEWED THROUGH MY FINGER!”

    Response: “DON’T BLEED ON THE FABRIC!”

    I’ve had some instruction on power tools, but as much as I’d love to own a nail gun, I really shouldn’t. I managed to hurt myself yesterday while prying an old bathroom vanity off the wall — the false drawer front shot off and biffed me in the nose. It was kind of sad.

  21. Rusted says:

    Actually radial arm saws are mostly gone, which is a really good thing, being an incredibly dangerous beast. Supposedly one could rip with the things, but it wasn’t easy or safe. Now replaced by the miter saw, known colloquially as a “chop” saw.

    Window openings can be routered out with plywood siding. Heck of a lot safer then free handing a circular saw.

  22. Sudonum says:

    @timmus: “I wonder if that’s the sort of task that the tradesmen pawn off to brave day laborers.”

    Not the brave ones, the stupid ones. We measure ’em and cut them on the saw horse.

  23. themikeshine says:

    Well, here it is.

    most guys are working under the table.
    so, it’s not “work” related.
    or, they won’t get paid.
    and no free beer during the ride back.

  24. FLConsumer says:

    Yeah, I’m currently repairing all of the DIY and Handy Andy repairs the previous owner did to my house. By the time all is said & done, I’ll probably have close to $10k just to fix the crap they tried to do on their own and didn’t get right.

    Using unlicensed contractors is just as bad. The majority of that $10k is going towards a new air conditioner and replacing the ductwork and lineset since the hack totally butchered them beyond repair.

  25. djyox says:

    you can do it, we can help….


  26. MeOhMy says:

    Table saws worry me more than chain saws.

    Most DIYers could probably do without a pneumatic nailgun, but I have one of those electric brad nailers which is basically a slightly beefy staplegun. It’s absolutely indispensible for all the trim I’ve put up.

  27. acambras says:


    As an architectural school graduate, I think my first thought would have been, “DON’T BLEED ON THE MODEL!!!”

  28. lilyHaze says:

    I grew up with a father who did a decent job on home repairs and maintenance on his building. It took me a long time to even be comfortable using an electric drill. And I still get nervous when I see him doing electric work (installing/maintaining light fixtures), even after a semester of EE.

    However, I’d like to get comfortable with easy home repairs myself (as a potential, future homeowner) because, yes, contractors can be worse (and expensive).

  29. IC18 says:

    My dad used to run an upholstery shop and plenty of power tools and air stapler gun. This article brings back a lot of memories me and my brother used to play with the stapler gun, that sucker used to shoot about 20 feet. Luckily through all the idiocy none of us got hurt from the tools at least, but we got a spanking from dad for fooling around.

  30. Rusted says:

    Being in the house beating-on biz, I do wear eye and ear protection and take real care with power tools. Please, if anyone is a DIY, do the same. We get hurt all the time too.