Be sure to take precautions when operating paper shredders

  • Published
  • By Edwards AFB Fire Prevention Office
  • 95th Air Base Wing Fire Protection Branch
A paper shredder offers an easy way to destroy a document, and helps reduce concerns about privacy. Unfortunately, shredders can be dangerous, and users should practice safety precautions to avoid injury.

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

Last month, an employee on base inserted a talking or musical greeting card into a shredder. When the greeting card recordable sound module made contact with the shredder blades it caused the paper to catch fire. Fortunately, it was a small fire that was easily extinguished.

Moreover, these types of greeting cards often contain lithium batteries which pose many hazards by themselves, especially when they are not properly disposed of. Never attempt to feed these types of cards into the shredder.

If you‟re about to shred paper, be sure to follow these simple precautions:
  •  Never put fingers or objects other than paper (like paper clips, staples, greeting cards with batteries or other metal objects) into the shredder feed 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. Do not force 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.
  • Place the paper shredder and its power cord away from 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.

Shredder waste paper bins must be emptied regularly to ensure no excessive amounts of shredded paper accumulate. Counting on the device's automatic shutoff to activate is a problem waiting to happen.

A 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 277-3643 for more information regarding the use of shredders or 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 277-4540/4541.

Information courtesy of the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers' Compensation and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.