Health & Safety

June 22, 2012

Shredder safety

by Tom Woods
95th Civil Engineering Division Fire Prevention

A paper shredder offers an easy way to destroy a document and helps reduce concerns about privacy.

Unfortunately, Consumer Product Safety Commission data indicates a total of about 2,000 people were treated in hospitals for business and office machine injuries during 2003, and about 30 percent of those involved lacerations to the fingers from paper shredders. Most of the injuries were due to operator inattention or error.

Last year an employee on the base inserted a talking/musical greeting card into the shredder. When the greeting card recordable sound module made contact with the shredder blades it caused the paper inside to catch fire. Fortunately it was a small fire that was easily extinguished because it was caught quickly.

Moreover, these types of greeting cards often contain lithium batteries which pose many hazards on their own especially when they are not properly disposed of.

Never attempt to put these types of cards inside the shredder. If you’re about to use a paper shredder, be sure to follow some simple precautions, such as:

  • Never put fingers or objects other than paper (like paper clips, staples, greeting cards with batteries or other metal objects) into the shredder feed opening as this could cause a fire
  • Keep jewelry, long hair, ties, lanyards, etc. away from the paper shredder feed opening
  • Feed paper smoothly into the shredder, not forcing the paper in
  • If there is a paper jam, and forward and reverse buttons don’t move the paper, disconnect the power source and contact a qualified person to make repairs. Don’t overheat or burn out the motor
  • If the shredder motor overheats, turn off the shredder for at least 15 minutes, allowing the motor to cool before using it again
  • Locate the paper shredder and its power cord outside of foot traffic areas to avoid tripping
  • Always disconnect the power source before removing and emptying the waste container or when cleaning the shredder
  • Do not use aerosol cleaners to clean paper shredders. Only use manufacturer’s recommended products
  • Always be alert and focus on the shredding task when using a paper shredder

Like all electrical machines, paper shredders can pose a fire hazard for both the home and work environment. Paper jams that occur while operating a paper shredder can lead to overheating of the machine. People who leave paper shredders plugged into an outlet while not in use are also at risk of a fire. Prevent fires by unplugging paper shredders and storing them in a safe place. A paper shredder is a simple tool to use and is very safe and effective when used correctly, within manufacturer’s specifications. But even when using a paper shredder, remember safety first, last, and always!

The Edwards Air Force Base Fire Department is eager to assist with any of your safety concerns, please contact the Fire Prevention office at (661) 277-3643 for more information regarding the use of shredders or any other concerns. Remember; in case of an emergency dial 911 from a duty or housing phone, if you are calling from a cell phone call (661) 277-4540/4541.

Information courtesy of the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation, through Stevens OSHA On-line.




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