Welcome Guest! The IOSH forums are a free resource to both members and non-members. Login or register to use them

Postings made by forum users are personal opinions. IOSH is not responsible for the content or accuracy of any of the information contained in forum postings. Please carefully consider any advice you receive.



Go to last post Go to first unread
#1 Posted : 13 February 2020 10:30:33(UTC)
Rank: Forum user

Morning all.

I’ve been dealing with an employee who sits in a large office C150 desks, and she is raising issues with a printer nearby. It’s a full size, floor standing Xerox printer/copier which is fully serviced by Xerox contractors. Just to summarise the main points from her very long email:

I regard carbon black as a risk with possible carcinogenic links – not 100 per cent scientific proof in this area though experiments on rats have previously shown some carcinogenic risk.

In addition, the inhalation of toner or any powder is a known irritant to the lungs and is known to contribute to respiratory problems. I understand that the heating process during printing bonds the toner to paper and of course printer suppliers and toner producers would rely on this process to deter possible concerns. The risk does not come from the printed document but from waste toner dust produced.

Currently removal of used toner kits is done by all without any precaution and indeed I have carried used toners cartridges myself to location of an office full of people.  

There have been cases when spilt toner has been around the printer and has been vacuumed hence going into the air and toner dust being present within the printer vicinity ie the door to the cartridge chamber is often full of used toner dust.

The end results of inhaling dust may not be obvious for many years but can be cumulative and may evolve in health issues in later life.

There is no obvious or graphic warning near the printer in terms of health and safety precautions regarding handling toner cartridges and the subsequent process of the safe changing and handling/disposal of toner cartridges is not clear with regards to cleaning up spilt toner.

We’ve been provided with and looked at the Safety Data sheet which tells us the toner ISN’T carcinogenic to Humans, but would like your thoughts on the dust/respiratory issues. Have any of you had this issue before and what (if any) measures you took e.g. COSHH assessment, signage etc.

Thanks if you can help.

A Kurdziel  
#2 Posted : 13 February 2020 11:21:28(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
A Kurdziel

The issue with toner is that nobody really knows the answer to this question or questions. The risk depends on things like:

  • Actual composition of the toner
  • How often the machine is being used
  • How many air changes in the room
  • The state of the machine: I have seen a paper which describes how the same model of printer can emit vastly different amounts of particles depending how old it is

What does she actually want?

Move away for the printer or get rid of the printer or replace it with a ”safer model”?

Are other people in the area affected?

I once spent days measuring the ozone levels next to a printer and found that there was nothing significant and then we realised that the manager in that area was a total!ӣ$%^! And the symptoms were entirely driven by stress on the part of the employees.

thanks 1 user thanked A Kurdziel for this useful post.
ivorheadache on 13/02/2020(UTC)
#3 Posted : 13 February 2020 12:44:50(UTC)
Rank: Forum user

Thanks. We're not sure what she wants yet or what has driven this. Here managers are as baffled as us so looking to us for advice. No other staff in the area has raised this dispite 3 of these printers on this floor in situ for over 5 years.  

#4 Posted : 13 February 2020 15:08:40(UTC)
Rank: New forum user

Fully agree with A Kurdziel.

I remember the pre-toner cartridge days when you filled a copier from a bottle of toner.

Oh, such innocent times!

Are the cartridges sealed in a bag prior to being taken through the office?

Where are they taken to? If its to a collection bin, can it not be relocated closer to the machine.

Also if the door to the cartridge chamber is indeed "full" of dust, in my experience, it usually implies that either:

  • The waste toner collection chamber requires emptying.
  • The cartridge is leaking or incorrectly installed.
  • It needs vacuuming out.

I doubt that mushroom clouds of toner are being produced everytime a cartridge is transported through the office and also suspect that someone has too much time on their hands googling toner related health conditions in rats. :)

thanks 1 user thanked Badgerman for this useful post.
ivorheadache on 14/02/2020(UTC)
#5 Posted : 14 February 2020 10:59:33(UTC)
Rank: Forum user

Thanks again.

Your quote: 'I doubt that mushroom clouds of toner are being produced everytime a cartridge is transported through the office and also suspect that someone has too much time on their hands googling toner related health conditions in rats. :)' is spot on. Unfortunately we need to respond someway.

I concluded that to keep this simple, change toner following manufacturers instructions.

really appreciate your help

Ron Hunter  
#6 Posted : 14 February 2020 14:26:21(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
Ron Hunter

Please note that carbon black is a good conductor and there is a possibility of your vacuum cleaner going bang! I suggest cartridge change is limited to a few sensible individuals to reduce the oops! potential. That said, not all toners contain carbon black and some only 5-10%

Service engineers use properly rated vacuums during servicing. Is your machine serviced (preventative maitenance) or only fixed when it doesn't work? Allergies aside, a well serviced machine shouldn't be emitting enough as cause respiratory problems.

Other than that, sitting beside a busy copier is IMO a bit of a short straw. Added noise and distraction!

#7 Posted : 17 February 2020 09:52:06(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user

 A Kurdziels post bought back memories of the endless "printer" debates.

to summerize advice we were given by manufacturers; Modern cartridges are designed to be leak proof if correctly used, we recomend users are shown the correct way to change and reminded not to remove the protective sleeve- thats the one that says do not remove. Then put the old cartridge in the packaging that the new one came in. ( I think they got asked this a lot)

This all seems very simple but there were regular complaints and problems with filthy printers,seems to be an issue here as well.  Can I sugest that you puts some guidance out there on how to change toner and ink and encourage regular cleaning, maybe even show them how its done in a lighthearted manner

If they are shared resources then it is possible that no one feels responsible for them, so no-one cleans up. It may be worth trying to get them tied to a specific group or team as it is unlikely to be part of the cleaning contract.

Other problems with printers:

People sat near printers were basically treated as printer monitors and regularly interupted when the printer needed paper/toner/ ink etc or were just not working.

People hanging around to use the printers and chatting. 

Noise from the printer

Smell from the printer- 

It may be that your Lady is unhappy for othr reasons and that this is one thing that she feels she can justifiable complain about and get someting done.

I appreciate you have probabaly tried all this, you have my sympathy as I have always found office workers some of the most difficult to satisfy and quickest to complain

thanks 1 user thanked nic168 for this useful post.
A Kurdziel on 17/02/2020(UTC)
Users browsing this topic
You cannot post new topics in this forum.
You cannot reply to topics in this forum.
You cannot delete your posts in this forum.
You cannot edit your posts in this forum.
You cannot create polls in this forum.
You cannot vote in polls in this forum.