Regular Maintenance of Printers and Copiers Ensures Users’ Health and Safety

Many people worry about the health effects of inhaling the fine powder or fumes from the toner and print cartridges used in modern copiers.

There is a great deal of research data and guidance available from the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as well as a series of model risk assessment guidance to help businesses to ensure the well being of their staff.

The materials used in toner powder are an extremely fine powdered ink, made up of a substance called Carbon Black and a polymer.

When a copy is being made the toner is charged. The image to be copied is converted into and mapped charges of the opposite polarity on a special drum in the printer. The toner is then transferred to the paper and “set”, usually by heat acting on the polymer.

There are many different types of toner dependent on their use and in what equipment, so a high speed copier, where the print has to set (or dry) very quickly will use a different carbon black/polymer mix from the mix used in a much slower office printer.

There is an approved workplace exposure limit (WEL) for airborne carbon black of 3.5 mg/m³.

For businesses that want to ensure that their Health and Safety programmes are effective the HSE provides a guidance checklist.

It describes each hazard or danger to assess, such as the possibility of inhaling solvent vapour from chemicals used in inkjet printers, the dangers for the skin of contact with ink and any risks from breathing in emissions from copiers.

It helps define who is at risk, from users of the machine to those responsible for replacing toner cartridges and also gives guidance on any symptoms that might help identify the harm caused.

It also makes clear, however, that it is not harmful to breathe in toner emissions.

According to an analysis by Cambridge University Carbon black is classified as a nuisance dust (a group 2B carcinogen, “possibly carcinogenic to humans”). It reports, however, that animal studies have not revealed any carcinogenic qualities in inhalation tests of carbon black.

However, both sources advise that it is always sensible to make sure that any office copiers and printers are placed in areas where there is adequate ventilation – and, it goes without saying, to ensure there are no trailing wires that could be a trip hazard.

Another aspect of safety is ensuring that electrical equipment is in sound, safe condition with no fraying cables, cables securely tucked into plugs and plugs with covers that are not chipped, broken or showing any tell-dale discolouration that could indicate faulty wiring or ineffective fuses.

Much of this routine checking and maintenance is carried out as part of the service contract which often accompanies the supply of office equipment of this type and can include ensuring that the many thousands of toner cartridges are safely disposed of or recycled each week.

They are widely available in most parts of the UK, such as the Eastern Region, so if your business is in Cambridge, Norwich, Bury St Edmunds or Ipswich for example, there are plenty of copier suppliers that can help.

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