In the present study, the behaviour of aluminium rivets in alloy AA7278-T6 during the riveting process when used to join two aluminium plates was investigated experimentally and numerically. It was observed by Hoang et al. that a rivet in alloy AA7278-T6 may fracture in shear when undergoing high pressure during the riveting process. A damage-based failure model was adopted for studying the shear fracture behaviour of the rivet. A calibration procedure of the damage parameters was suggested based on two tests (i.e. material tension tests and rivet compression tests). The model was implemented in the finite element code LS-DYNA as a user-defined subroutine. Numerical results showed that the model seemed to be able to capture the shear fracture mode in the rivets as observed in the tests.