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By the close of fiscal year 2018, two people within Air Combat Command were short one digit each due to paper shredder mishaps. Further research uncovered a total of four finger amputations and two minor injuries from shredders throughout the command since 2014.

Was it complacency, violation of procedures, bypassing a safety feature, inadequate training or just plain lack of common sense? Or maybe it was a combination of all of them.

The common cause with all the mishaps was training, or lack thereof. The workers were not trained on performing maintenance, cleaning or clearing paper jams. In some cases, the worker wasn't even trained on the safe operation of the paper shredder.

Supervisors must ensure that workers who are authorized to use paper shredders are trained on its safe operation. The training should include the manufacturer's instruction manual and be included in the section's job safety training outline. During the training, workers should be notified whether or not they will be expected to clear paper jams or perform shredder maintenance.

Most shredders have safety features to prevent start up when the door is open or covers are removed. However, in one mishap, the safety interlock switch was bypassed by using a piece of paper to override the switch so that the shredder would continue to operate when the door was open. When the worker decided to remove shredded pieces of paper from the blades, her other hand inadvertently pushed the button causing the blades to start rotating and pull her fingers into the blades.

Never bypass or disable built-in safety features on anything!

Was it a generational challenge or complacency? Not in these cases. Two of the four amputees were over 45 years old and the other two were under 26. So we can't point the finger at age as a factor in the mishaps. Complacency usually sets in when you perform a task repeatedly for several months--or even years, but that wasn't the case in any of these mishaps either. It was just the opposite for these mishaps; these workers had never performed maintenance on a shredder. Maybe they thought that as long as they were careful, they'd be OK.

At first, you might say, "This is common sense; don't stick your fingers where they don't belong or where moving parts and pinch points are present," but not so fast. Not everyone has been exposed to a shredder or even similar type machinery. In these cases, people may not realize the dangers associated with removing a paper jam from a shredder.

Accidents can occur everywhere, even in the office. Be aware and be cautious when performing any job, even simple tasks like shredding paper. Never try to clean or dislodge paper jams while a shredder is still running or energized. Always unplug the machine before attempting any maintenance, cleaning or paper retrieval. Even if the shredder is unplugged, ensure to keep any body parts well clear of any sharp edges or nip points. If there's any doubt or uncertainty in successfully executing any of the above mentioned tasks, refer the task to the maintenance department.

Before You Start

* Review the information provided in the paper shredder operator's manual, paying particular attention to safety procedures.

* Always inspect the machine, electrical cord and plug for damage or disrepair.

* If the paper shredder fails the pre-use inspection, notify your supervisor, unplug and remove the shredder from service by attaching a sign that states "UNSAFE--DO NOT USE."

Operating Precautions

* Place the paper shredder and power cord outside of foot traffic areas.

* Paper shredders should be located at least 4 inches from walls or furniture to allow air to freely flow through ventilation slots.

* Always be alert and focus on the task when using a paper shredder.

* Keep jewelry, long hair or loose clothing, i.e., neckties, away from the paper shredder feed opening.

* Never put fingers or objects other than paper into the shredder feed opening unless the machine was designed for the material--e.g., some can shred discs or credit cards.

* Feed paper smoothly into the shredder. Never force paper into a shredder.

* Shred paper in small quantities to avoid jamming the shredder.

* If the shredder motor overheats, turn it off and allow the motor to cool for about 15 minutes before using again.

* Always turn off and unplug the power source before removing and emptying the waste box, cleaning the paper shredder, or removing jams.

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Publication:Combat Edge
Date:Sep 22, 2018
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