Cal/OSHA announced Tuesday that it issued citations to an Orange County contractor and proposed more than $200,000 in proposed penalties for alleged willful violations of nail gun safety regulations in the wake of a workplace accident that seriously injured a carpenter.

An investigation found that Circle M Contractors Inc. failed to train and instruct its employees on the proper use of pressure-powered nailing tools, according to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA, the division within the Department of Industrial Relations that helps protect California’s workers from health and safety hazards on the job.

A company representative could not immediately be reached for comment.

On April 17, a Circle M-employed carpenter doing wood framing work at a residential construction site in Lake Forest was carrying an air pressure-powered nail gun in his right hand, with his finger on the trigger, when a nail was unintentionally discharged into his left arm, according to Cal/OSHA. The agency said its investigation “found that Circle M Contractors employees did not receive hands-on training for operating nailing tools safely and that the Rancho Santa Margarita-based employer did not ensure workers carry nail guns only by the handle and not with their finger on the trigger.”

Cal/OSHA issued two willful-serious accident-related citations with a total of $225,500 in proposed penalties for Circle M Contractors’ alleged failure to train workers on nail guns and failure to ensure safe operation of those tools.

Cal/OSHA’s review of the employer’s injury log showed 34 instances of nail gun injuries suffered by its employees since 2016, according to the agency, which says it has conducted more than 570 inspections of framing contractors since 2015.

“Employers must effectively train workers to safely operate dangerous tools such as nail guns,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. “The employer knew these tools are hazardous and did not take the necessary measures to protect their workers from injury.”

“In 2015, Cal/OSHA investigated after a Circle M Contractors worker installing hanger brackets slipped and discharged a nail into his knee,” according to the agency. “Cal/OSHA cited the employer for failing to ensure workers carry nail guns only by the handle. It was one of three investigations of Circle M Contractors that year following accidents in San Diego and Irvine. One worker fell nine feet while setting roof trusses and another worker fell from the second floor while removing guardrails.”

According to Cal/OSHA, a citation is classified as serious when there is a realistic possibility that death or serious harm could result from the actual hazard created by the violation. A willful violation is cited when the employer is aware of the law and violates it nevertheless, or when the employer is aware of the hazardous condition and takes no reasonable steps to address it. Citations are classified as accident-related when the injury, illness or fatality is caused by the violation.

Cal/OSHA’s Consultation Services Branch provides free and voluntary assistance to employers to improve their safety and health programs. Employers can call (800) 963-9424 for additional information.

Employees with work-related questions or complaints should contact DIR’s Call Center in English or Spanish at (844) 522-6734. Complaints can also be filed confidentially with Cal/OSHA district offices.

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