Powder-Actuated Tools

Powder-actuated tools operate like a loaded gun and should be treated with the same respect and precautions. While they are designed with safety in mind, they are potentially very dangerous and must be operated by properly trained employees who are equipped with all necessary PPE to protect against potential risks.

A powder-actuated tool (PAT) is a tool that gets its power from an explosive charge. The tool uses the expanding gas from the explosion to drive a fastener into materials such as masonry, concrete, steel, and other hard surfaces. Only trained, competent, and authorized persons are permitted to operate a powder-actuated tool (also known as explosive-actuated tools) Unauthorized or improper use of a powder-actuated tool could result in a serious injury or a death.

Before Using

  • Test powder actuated tools each day before loading to ensure that the safety devices are in proper working condition. Any tool found not to be in proper working order shall be immediately removed from service until repairs are made.
  • Inspect a tool before use to determine that it is clean, that all moving parts operate freely and that the barrel is free from obstructions.
  • Conduct a thorough study of each job site. Know the types of materials you’ll be driving into so you can select the proper stud and cartridge. Also know what is on the other side of a wall and what is inside it, such as electric wires, pipes or wire chasers.

Using the Tool


  • Do hold the tool perpendicular to the work surface.
  • Do use tools with the type of shield or muzzle guard appropriate for a particular use.
  • Do wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as eye and hearing protection, when using powder actuated fastening tools.
  • Do load immediately before firing only. Never carry a loaded tool from on job to another.

Do Not:

  • Do not point the tool, whether loaded or not, at any person.
  • Do not load the tool until just prior to the intended firing time.
  • Do not leave tools or powder charges unattended in places where they
  • would be available to unauthorized persons.
  • Do not use a powder actuated tool in an explosive or flammable atmosphere.
  • Do not drive fasteners into very hard or brittle materials such as cast iron, glazed tile, surfaced hardened steel, glass block, live rock, face brick or hollow tile.
  • Do not drive fasteners into soft materials unless such materials are backed by a substance that will prevent the pin or fastener from passing completely through and creating a flying missile hazard on the opposite side.
  • Do not drive fasteners into an existing hole unless a positive guide is used to secure accurate alignment.
  • Do not attempt to drive a fastener into a sprawled area caused by an unsatisfactory fastening.

Jams and Misfires

  • Never attempt to release a loaded tool that has jammed in the firing position. Place it in a safe place and check the manufacturer’s manual.
  • If a misfire occurs, hold the tool against the work surface for 15 to 30 seconds. Do not remove the tool from the work surface when opening the tool and removing the defective load. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations for disposal instructions in case of a misfire.

Discussion Questions

  1. What types of jobs are performed with powered fasteners?
  2. What are the main hazards of powered fasteners?
  3. What PPE might you need for work with powered fasteners?

Danger - Keep Clear - Explosive Powered Tool in Use