Pneumatic Nail Extractor

A pneumatic nail extractor is a hand tool that uses compressed air to loosen and remove nails.


A pneumatic nail extractor is an engineering control that may reduce stressful hand and wrist activity.  A pneumatic nail extractor uses compressed air to vibrate nails to loosen them before prying them out.


A pneumatic nail extractor is operated by placing the nail extracting end next to a hammered nail, then pushing the pneumatic trigger which vibrates the nail extracting end until it is underneath the head of the nail.  Then, the operator pries out the nail.

A pneumatic nail extractor is 10¼ inches long and 1 5/8 inches wide.  The tool comes with "cats paw" nail extractor, scaler, and chisel heads.  A ¼ inch air inlet attaches the tool to a standard air compressor (Figure 1).  A pneumatic nail extractor consumes an average of 4 CFM of air and provides 4,600 blows per minute with a 1 1/8 inch stroke.

Figure 1. Pneumatic Nail Extractor

Risks Addressed:

Exposure to stressful hand and wrist activity can cause musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).  Stressful hand & wrist activity can cause muscle strains; tendonitis, which is inflammation of elbow and wrist tendons; or carpal tunnel syndrome, which is compression of a wrist nerve, resulting in finger numbness and loss of hand strength.  A pneumatic nail extractor requires less stressful hand and wrist activity than a traditional cats paw because it uses compressed air to get underneath the nail head in order to pry it out. 

How Risks are Reduced:

Removing nails with a traditional cats paw requires forceful lodging of the tool under the head of the nail.  A pneumatic nail extractor reduces stressful hand and wrist activity by using power from the air compressor to lodge the tool underneath the head of the nail. 

Safety and health experts believe that a pneumatic nail extractor may minimize stressful hand and wrist activity.  In addition, a pneumatic nail extractor reduces the amount of time required to remove nails, therefore reducing the demand on the worker.

Effects on Productivity:

A pneumatic nail extractor increases productivity on the worksite by removing nails faster than a traditional cats paw

Additional Considerations:

It is estimated that this tool produces vibration accelerations of 5 – 7 m/s2 (Health and Safety Executive).  Using this tool for more than 3 hours may expose the operator to hazardous levels of vibration (EU Good Practice Guide HAV, 2006).  Excess hand-arm vibration can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, vibration white finger, and strained muscles.


Dan Anton, PT, PhD, ATC; and Kevin Wright, SPT – Eastern Washington University

Hazards Addressed:


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Return on Investment

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