Dangers of Using an Office Shredder

In an era of identity theft and privacy breaches, more and more people are concerned with protecting their information. This has led to the steady rise of office shredders both in businesses and homes. While shredding documents is a recommended way of securely disposing of information, office shredders often give a false sense of security. Even worse, they have hidden costs and present a very real danger to physical safety and information security. Here is our breakdown on the dangers of using an office shredder and the best secure alternative.

Physical Dangers

Danger sign

Cuts and other injuries

Let’s start by looking at the physical dangers presented by office shredders. First, there is a real threat of being cut or hurt by a shredder. This is especially true if it is in a home around children or pets. Loose clothing and articles such as ties can also be caught in the shredder causing injury. For efficiency, it is recommended you get a shredder with an auto-on feature which detects when paper is being inserted and automatically turns on the motor. However, this feature can be extremely dangerous as it could potentially be activated by small fingers or a dog’s tongue. We strongly suggest disabling the auto-on feature when the shredder is not in use. Also, be sure your shredder has trusted safety features to shut off if something other than paper is inserted.

Risk of fire

Second, office shredders can cause fires. While all shredders automatically shut down when the motor overheats, a build up of small paper particles, a lack of maintenance and oil, and over use can lead to a fire. Even a small spark could ignite the paper and quickly spread to carpets, desks and walls. To avoid this, it is important to buy a more expensive model. These models have longer run times. This means it takes longer for the motor to over heat. Regular maintenance and cleaning should also be done to reduce the chance of any sparks.

Dust and allergens

Third, office shredders throw a lot of dust into the air, and they are typically used in small offices or copy rooms which are not well ventilated. Paper carries other dust particles and allergens. If used frequently or for extended periods of time it is likely that the dust may trigger allergies or even exacerbate respiratory issues. To limit these issues, regularly clean the machine and leave it in an area that is well ventilated.

Hidden Costs


Repair and replacement

Now let’s turn our attention to the hidden costs associated with office shredders. To begin with, they can easily be jammed or even damaged requiring repair or replacement. For instance, most office shredders should handle standard staples, but can be jammed or even damaged by small paper clips. The typical shredder can eat through 10-20 pages at a time, but overfilling can also lead to jams. Even inserting papers at an angle can cause a jam. Jams mean annoying delays and can help over heat the motor. This will cause the shredder to shutdown until it has cooled off. Not only does this cost you time, it can also cost money in repairs or even require to you to pay for a replacement machine.

Regular Maintenance

Another hidden cost is regular maintenance. Paper residue can build up in and around the motor eventually leading to it burning out, so you must take the time to clean the shredder regularly. Also, like any machine with moving parts, office shredders need to be oiled. The reason this is considered a hidden cost is not because the oil is expensive or the process is difficult, but because it most often completely forgotten. Without regular oiling, the motor will decrease in efficiency and will eventually burn out. When that happens it is likely you will then be stuck with the cost of having to buy a replacement.

Man hours and productivity

Lastly on this point is the hidden cost of man hours and reduced productivity. While the man hours required will vary based on your needs and the type of shredder you have, any office shredder is going to require a human being to manually feed in paper. Most office shredders can only shred 10-20 pages at time and can only run for 10-30 minutes before overheating and shutting down requiring you to wait until it cools off enough to run again. It is likely you will only be able to shred 100-600 pages per session with 20-30 minute waits in between. The average file box contains 2,400 pages. It could take you hours to shred an entire box. This is not an efficient use of your time or of the time you pay people to work.

Security Risks

Key in lock

Now let’s say you have taken into consideration everything we just discussed. You have purchased an expensive office shredder that has appropriate safety measure, shreds 20+ pages at a time, and runs for more than hour before shutting down. Your shredder eats through paper clips and rarely jams. You have developed a schedule with reminders to clean and oil the machine regularly to keep it running at peak efficiency. You feel good that your documents are being securely destroyed and you are protected from identity theft and privacy breaches, but you would be wrong. There are still major security risks and legal liabilities that a office shredder does not protect you from.

No verified process

First, with an office shredder you have no verified process to track when documents are destroyed. There is no tracking to show that records are destroyed on a schedule. In the event of a legal subpoena of documents, you will NOT have a certificate of destruction or a provable chain of custody. This could cast doubt on when and why records were shredded. If you can prove that all documents of a certain type are destroyed on a regular schedule then you avoid this danger. However, with an office shredder it is rare that shredding happens on scheduled basis and even rarer that any record is kept about the shredding process.

Internal fraud

Second, for businesses an office shredder does little to stop internal fraud and may actually be a tool to allow such fraud to continue. Relying on individual employees to decide what should be destroyed is a recipe for disaster. Not only can employees forget to shred materials, they can simply misjudge what documents need shredding. Even worse, since it is difficult to track use of office shredder, it is possible for an unethical employee to hide activity or to claim documents have been destroyed when they haven’t been.

Dumpster divers

Finally, and most importantly, an office shredder does not protect you from dumpster divers. Even if you do everything right in terms of shredding paper on a schedule and tracking when documents are shredded, improper disposal of shredded paper is still a huge security liability. Small amounts of shredded paper can easily be reconstructed. So a bag of shredded paper in the trash screams “take me!” to thieves. While we hear a lot about massive high tech breaches, dumpster divers are still more of a threat to most people and businesses. Any one can do it and it often goes completely undetected. However, it is a great way to gather information for use in identity theft and other fraud schemes. To avoid this risk you will need to disperse shredded paper across multiple bags of regular trash. Ideally, you would also spread it out over different days.

The Secure Alternative


If all of this sounds more complicated than what you had in mind, do not fear because there is a convenient, affordable and secure alternative. Simply choose a certified and trusted service provider. Do some research and find a shredding company that is AAA certified and established in your area. By a using a shredding service, you remove all the headaches and risks associated with office shredders. Whether you want regular service on a scheduled basis or just a one-time purge of your documents every year or so, a service provider will do all of the heavy lifting for you. Since they work in massive amounts of paper, it is impossible for documents to be reconstructed. Choose a provider that also recycles all of the paper they shred to guarantee your information is completely destroyed.

The industrial machinery of the service provider means you do not have to pick and choose what documents get shredded. You can shred all paper waste to make sure nothing important is left behind. When documents are shredded there will be a record of the service. The service provider can also supply a certificate of destruction. You get the peace of mind that your documents are securely destroyed and recycled, without the dangers and liabilities of an office shredder.

If you need help with document destruction, records storage or IT asset destruction contact Document Shredding & Storage toll free at 1-866-381-6611 or by email at service@docshredders.com today to find out how we can help.

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