Hazardous Effects of Paper Shredders:
A paper shredder is a device, mechanical in nature, meant for cutting paper into very small pieces. Oringally, paper shredders were only used in government organizations and businesses to destroy papers that were either private, confidential or had any kind of sensitive information. As the more and more people saw the benefit of paper shredders as a way to assist with identity theft protection, demand for a home use paper shredder increased. Manufacturers supplied the damand with a vast array of complact, inexpensive paper shredders designed specifically for home use.
However little did the people know that these paper shredders were not only inappropriate, but also dangerous piece of equipment that could cause serious and fatal injuries, especially to the fingers of the person operating the shredder, or children or even pets.
The various injuries that paper shredder can cause, can be categorized as follows:
Of the many surveys conducted, the review of 50 reported injuries by U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission concluded that:
- 71% of the reported injuries involved children less than 12 years of age.
- More than half of the injuries involved children aged less than 3 years.
- Many children less than the age of 6 years underwent amputation of fingers of the hand.
Finger amputation is not only limited to children, there have been many instances, where the person operating the machine has suffered from severely injured fingers while trying to pull out the paper, while the machine was still in use.
People generally perceive that the paper- feed slots in home shredders are too small to fit their or their child’s fingers. However most of the time that’s not the case, they are big enough to fit child’s fingers and when they are compressed, they can fit through the opening. Some models of paper shredders have the facility of pushing out the edges of the paper-feed slot, thereby further expanding the width of the opening, which are more dangerous than the normal ones. In these models, a “funneling” channel sits at the bottom of the slot that pushes the paper into the slot for shredding. Now when the edges of the paper- feed are pulled out, it widens the opening of the funnel, hence giving ample room for the children’s fingers to fit in. When force is applied to the finger, it creates a wedge that expands the width of the slot. If fingers are placed into the opening of the “funnel”, during paper shredding exercise, the shredder creates a “pull force” that draws the child’s fingers deeper into the “funnel” and through the paper feed slot.
Paper Shredders also pose risk for pets that accidently might just lick the unplugged shredder on the floor, and get their tongues caught in the blades, or get their long fur or tail caught in the shredder causing serious injuries and even death at times.
Paper Shredders pose risk of fire hazard too as the machine can get overheated during paper jams, causing short- circuits leading to fire. In fact, there have been reports of owners of mobile homes getting a compensation of $45,000 in lieu of the damages that the plugged paper shredder caused while not in use.
Precautions to be used while using Paper Shredder
A paper shredder injury can happen at any place and at anytime. So there are certain tips that should be watched while using the machine:
- Simple tasks like shredding paper should be performed with utmost caution and care.
- Cleaning or clearing of paper jams from the shredder should not be performed until the machine is unplugged and de- energized.
- Machine should be de- energized before performing any routine tasks like cleaning or servicing or any other
- Even after de- energizing, body parts should be kept well clear of the sharp edges or nip- points. Hair should be well tied, and items like ties and long necklaces should stand clear of the device.
- In case of any doubts pertaining to usage or maintenance of the machine is concerned, an authorized personnel should be referred and no research and development should be performed single- handedly.
- NEVER ALLOW CHILDREN TO OPERATE PAPER SHREDDER, even under adult supervision, as the shredder can pull the child’s fingers in no time.
- Paper Shredders should be kept at a place which is not reachable by children.
- The paper shredder should be immediately unplugged after use.
Articles published pertaining to Paper Shredders:
Paper Shredders have been in news for one or the other reason. Some of them are as follows:
- Paper Shredder Injury reported in Texas
- Consumer Product Safety Commission issues alerts on Paper Shredders
www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/5127.html can be referred for the detailed report.
- Expert studies “MailMate Paper Shredders” for “Unsafe Design Flaws”.
Role of Consumer Product Safety Commission:
After performing an In-Depth Investigation on all the models and aspects of the paper shredders like the proximity of the blades from the user’s fingers, ability to stop the shredder instantly in case of a causality etc. CPSC concluded that nearly all the models were unfit for home use and dangerous especially for children. It even called for re-designing of the product and many manufacturers have come up with improved versions of paper shredders meant for domestic use and are safe for children as well.