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Problems with Office Paper

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Faculty of Social Sciences

Coping with the Office

Your First Day at the Office | Coping with Office Copying | Problems with Office Paper | Office Food and Drink | Computers at the Office | Managers in the Office | Averting Telephone Problems in the Office | Email in the Office

Paper is is the life blood of any office. Computers were developed with a 'paperless office concept' in mind, but this just hasn't happened. In fact since the integration of computers in the work-place, paper and printing has increased ten-fold.

Paper is a combination of wood, clay and, in a lot of cases these days, it's actually made out of other paper, which is a good thing.

Paper Hazards

Despite its versatility, paper can be a real hazard.

  • Dust - This clogs up machines, can get all over your clothing, and in some cases can cause breathing difficulties. To the best of this Researcher's knowledge, paper dust hasn't put anyone in hospital yet but there's always a first time for everything.

  • Addiction - Believe it or not, there are some people out there who eat paper, attracted by the smell. Not only do they do this, but they cannot stop and have been known to consume large quantities in a relatively short amount of time. The problem is that wood and clay are not that easy to digest resulting in a surgical operation required to remove it from the gut. Feel peckish? Eat a sandwich!

  • Fire - Paper burns really well, especially when you don't want it to. Loads of paper lying around can go up in flames in next to no time. File it, remove it, but don't leave it lying around.

  • Injury - Paper cuts are probably the most painful type of cut you can get. This is largely due to the skin-shredding nature of the paper edge, in the same way a blunt rip saw can still cut through wood. Paper is also dense and therefore heavy. Be careful lifting boxes. Don't stack paper too high: if it falls, it might fall on you. Not quite as nasty as an eight foot tall pile of scissors but still potentially fatal.

Paper Processing Machinery

There are a fair number of machines that deal with paper in varying ways. The basic guide for any machine of this sort is: don't get caught up in it. Here are details of some of the more dangerous machines.

The Shredder

This is a very unforgiving machine. Lots of patience and perhaps a small prayer are required before you start. Once again, take your time. Make sure that the piles of paper you are putting into the hopper do not include any body parts or items of clothing. There have been several cases of people shredding their ties: they lifted up a stack of fanfold paper, unaware that their tie has become folded in with it. They then fed one end of the paper in to the mouth of the shredder and hit 'start'. The shredder roared through the paper and the tie in no time at all and the hapless user found themselves yanked towards the gnashing teeth at high speed. Luckily their chin got in the way and wouldn't fit through the slot, so they were slowly strangled until a passer-by hit 'stop'. It all happens very quickly, so take care.

  • Shred small amounts of paper at a time.

  • Don't shred paper clips. The shrapnel that can ping out can cause terrible eye damage.

  • Be very careful about shredding continous printout. Paper cuts can cut to the bone if the paper is moving fast enough.

  • This may be obvious, but learn where the 'Stop' switch is before you start.

  • It's worth having a first aid kit nearby, just in case.


These machines are designed to staple or punch holes through fairly big wadges of paper, but they have no problem with banging holes or staples through your fingers - they have no conscience that way. You must make a number of checks before you start using them:

  • Check that the machine is not already clogged with whatever the previous person was doing. If you are going to try clearing jams, make sure you switch the machine off at the mains before you start, else it might continue from where it left off using you as a paper substitute.

  • Check that the safety guards are in place and are not broken. People have hole-punched and stapled fingers due to missing guards.

  • Don't rush things: 'less haste more speed' and all that. At the very least you will probably break the machine, if you push your luck.

  • Don't work for long periods on this sort of machine if you can possibly help it. Fatigue and wandering attention may cost you a limb or two.

Final Thoughts

Admittedly, making holes in paper, or ramming staples through it, or just shredding it into lots of little bits is not the most enthralling of occupations. Here's a thought for you to remember: at least you are not gutting fish or working in the laundry department of a mental hospital. Another thing to remember is that some sucker somewhere is paying you money for this, so chin up, tomorrow is another fantastic day.

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