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Paper Shredder Hazards

Document shredder machines, commonly referred to as paper shredders, have been used in offices for many years. More and more consumers are purchasing these products for home offices and to prevent identity theft. Approximately 22 million households have at least one paper shredder. An estimated 10 to 20 million paper shredders were sold for home and office use in 2002. These sales are expected to increase by approximately 20% per year.

Unfortunately, despite the popularity of paper shredders, many people are unaware of their dangers. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has reported many injuries associated with paper shredders. Finger amputations are among the most serious of these injuries. While adults and children are both vulnerable to finger amputations, roughly 2/3 of the incidents reported involved children under the age of 12.

Most of these injuries occur when a hand is accidentally allowed to come into contact with the paper shredder’s opening where paper is inserted. Adults may do this inadvertently whereas children may purposely place their hand into the shredder or may just not realize that they should let go of paper as they feed it into the shredder.

The CPSC has tested paper shredders to determine what manufacturers can do to prevent these accidental injuries. They found that the width of the paper shredder opening, the stiffness of the opening, the distance to the shredder mechanism from the opening, and the shredder mechanism’s pulling force were all factors that make a paper shredder less safe. Something as simple as designing a smaller shredder opening or placing the shredder blades further from that opening might save the fingers of someone accidentally contacting the shredder opening. In addition, because most paper shredders have auto-start features, a child can be at risk even when an adult is not present. During their testing, the CPSC staff found that current voluntary safety standards may not adequately address the dangers associated with paper shredders. The CPSC is working with various organizations to improve the safety standards related to paper shredders. Until new standards are in force, adults and children may be at risk from unsafe paper shredders.

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