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Laser Printers: Health and Safety

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Laser printers, if used sensibly, comply with Health and Safety Legislation. As is the case for any machine, it is the responsibility of the user to follow good practice guidelines. In particular, avoid unnecessary exposure to the toner powder, use a well maintained/serviced laser printer and place the printer in a properly ventilated room. Some of the information shown below can apply to other printing technologies, and remember that laser printers are used safely on a daily basis by many millions of people in offices/businesses worldwide.

 

Possible negative health implications associated with using laser printers have been suggested, in particular the Queensland University of Technology in Australia 2007 Report /2008 Report. However, these studies have been strongly contested by manufacturers such as HP as 'scaremongering'.

In general, manufacturers state that users should always adhere to their guidelines on correct usage and maintenance and by doing so, will be exposed to emissions below recognised occupational exposure limits as set by various Health and Safety Authorities. Variations in emissions may occur not only between laser printers from different manufacturers but also between various models in a series and even between different printers of the same model e.g. Emissions Summary.

In general, safety issues can be categorised as follows:
 

Noise

The placement of printers should be considered, as levels measured as high as 65 Decibels (dB) have been recorded from some models. Typical levels for printers in operation are 45-55 dB and 25-35 dB in standby mode. The following examples place these figures in an everyday context:

20 dB    A whisper
30 dB    A quiet bedroom at night
40 dB    A quiet library
50 dB    Conversation in home environment
60 dB    Conversation in office environment
70 dB    Busy street traffic
 

Fire and Possible Risk of Explosion

Due to both the microscopic size and electrical charge of the toner ink particles, one must not clean laser printers using a conventional household vacuum. Aside from the risk of fire and explosion, the particles are small enough to pass through the cleaner in to the surrounding rooms. An ESD (electrostatic discharge) toner vacuum cleaner should always be used.

Express Electronic Vacuum Cleaner
 Omega Supreme Electronic Vacuum Cleaner

                                                                         

Emissions

The inhalation of toner particles is associated with possible health risks. Toner powder is composed of microscopic particles around 8 micrometers (8x10-6 meters) in size, and inhalation can cause respiratory irritation. Prolonged exposure has been linked to possible cardiovascular problems and cancer. Skin and eye sensitisation as well as headaches have also been reported.

Various Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) may be emitted and include Styrene (although weakly toxic, the US EPA describe this as a ‘suspected carcinogen’) and Xylene (an irritant that exhibits neurological effects such as headaches, dizziness, confusion) and Benzene (carcinogen).

Nitrogen Oxide and Carbon Monoxide can arise in certain conditions leading to headaches and drowsiness.

Ozone can be produced during the print process and exposure can lead to a variety of symptoms which include irritation of the eyes, skin and respiratory systems, dermatitis and headaches when undertaking long print runs in a small, poorly ventilated room.

Selenium and Cadmium Sulphide may be found on some drums and can lead to irritation, sensitisation as well as vomiting if inadvertently ingested.

Depending on the make and model of printer, the use of filters e.g. carbon filter in the air exhaust system, can significantly minimise problems associated with particulate and chemical pollution.
 

Electric Shock

Modern machines have auto cut-offs when opened but it is advisable to switch off and not take risks. Laser printers have areas carrying high voltage from the mains as well as a residual build-up of voltage on components.
 

Paper Jams

Switch off and avoid hot surfaces. Hands should be washed afterwards.
 

Health and Safety : Good Practice When Using Laser Printers 

 

Respect and follow the guidelines recommended by the manufacturer. These are written to ensure that the user remains safe and, if followed correctly, minimise any associated risks in accordance with Health and Safety regulations and legislation.

 

•  Use in a well ventilated room where the air is completely changed once an hour. If insufficient air conditioning, aside from health issues, laser printers may increase the room temperature which can be problematic in hot climates and add a detectable aroma to the working environment.

 

•  Place at least 3 m away from workers or preferably in a separate room.

 

•  Service regularly and always replace filters in the time frame recommended by the manufacturer.

 

•  Use gloves when maintaining the machine and when vacuuming printer, only use special toner vacuum cleaner. Avoid touching your mouth and face and wash hands thoroughly in cold water when finished. Hot water may cause the powder to be absorbed into the skin.


Articles

1 History of Laser Printers
2 How do Laser Printers Work?
3 LED and LCD Printers - Are these Laser Printers?
4 Laser Printer and Photocopier - What is the Difference?
5 Laser Printer Paper - A3 Size and its Equivalent
6 Toner Cartridges - What are the Different Types?
7 Choosing a Laser Printer – How to Make an Informed Choice
8 Where to buy a Laser Printer and its Consumables - High Street v Internet
9 Basic Maintenance of Laser Printer
10 Who uses A3 Laser Printers?
11 A3 Laser Printers compared to A4 Laser Printers
12 A3 Colour Laser Printers compared to A3 Monochrome Laser Printers
13 A3 Colour Laser Printers compared to A3 Colour Inkjet Printers
14 Why does a Laser Printer cost more to buy than an Inkjet Printer?
15 Laser Printers: Health and Safety

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