skip navigation

Photocopiers, laser printers and other office copying equipment


  1. Introduction
  2. Hazards and risk control
  3. Checklist for the safe use of office copying machines

1. Introduction

Photocopiers, laser printers and other office copying machines are essential to modern offices and this guidance material will assist workplaces in providing safe and healthy printing and copying facilities.

2. Hazards and risk control

Photocopiers and laser printers may present the following hazards:


Ozone, an unstable form of oxygen is produced in small quantities during the photocopying or laser printing process and can irritate eyes, lungs, throats and nasal passages if present at above 0.1 ppm.

Risk control

  • Buy a photocopier or laser printer with low ozone emission specifications and/or fitted with an activated carbon filter.
  • Locate the photocopier or laser printer in a well ventilated area (an enclosed room may need mechanical ventilation).
  • Allow space around the machine for good airflow
  • Follow manufacturers' operating instructions.
  • Regularly maintain the photocopier, laser printer and filter.
  • Replace carbon filters regularly, as indicated by the manufacturer's specifications.


Toner, which may contain powdered carbon black, can be spilt during maintenance or refilling the drum. Short term exposure to high dust levels can cause coughing and sneezing.

Risk control

  • Use containerised toner systems and automatic shut-down devices on waste toner compartments.
  • Use in a well ventilated area.

Bright light

The very bright light produced by photocopiers may cause eye irritation if viewed directly. The intermittent light may disturb people working nearby.

Risk control

  • The glass on a photocopier removes harmful UV emissions.
  • The document cover shields operators from the intense light produced by photocopiers-use the cover at all times.
  • Situate the photocopier away from other workstations as far as practicable, to minimise disturbance.

Heat and noise

Heat and noise generated by photocopiers can cause operator discomfort and may be a nuisance to nearby workers. Burns from hot components may occur during operations such as clearing paper jams or misfeeds.

Risk control

  • Locate photocopiers in a well ventilated room away from other work areas.
  • Switch off copier and allow components to stand for a few minutes to cool before attempting to remove paper.
  • Use non-metal tongs to remove paper and ensure machine is switched off.

Solvent vapours

High concentrations of solvent vapours from some specialised equipment such as diazo printers may cause nausea, headaches or poor concentration, particularly in poorly ventilated rooms. Irritation to eyes, skin and respiratory tract can also result from exposure. Contact dermatitis may occur when handling chemically treated papers or some wet-process chemicals.

Risk control

  • Select the safest printer for the task
  • Locate printer in a well ventilated room with a filtered air exhaust system and if necessary, provide mechanical exhaust ventilation.
  • Obtain a material safety data sheet (MSDS) from your supplier for information about handling, storage and toxicity of chemicals used.
  • Wear suitable gloves (refer to MSDS) to avoid chemical contact with skin when handling chemically treated papers or wet-process chemicals.

Very small particles

Some laser printers emit very small particles.  Further work is required to establish the nature of these particles, which will also help determine any risks to health. Further information on this study is available from the American Chemical Society.

Risk control

  • Locate printers in well ventilated areas away from workstations, as far as practicable.
  • Consider available emissions data when choosing new printers.

Physical discomfort and strain

Long periods of photocopying or collating in badly designed work area can cause physical discomfort and strain.

Risk control

  • Position photocopiers and collation tables at a comfortable height.
  • Alternate repetitive jobs with other duties.
  • Store boxes of photocopy/printing paper between knee and shoulder height to make lifting and carrying easier.

3. Checklist for the safe use of office copying machines

(Reproduced from Office Copying Machines, A WorkSafe Australia Guide, available from Safe Work Australia)

  1. Equipment should be installed in an adequately ventilated area to facilitate safe removal of any dusts, gases or vapours.
  2. If installed in an enclosed room, mechanical ventilation may be required (refer to AS 1668.2).
  3. There should be adequate space around copiers to allow for good airflow and to facilitate maintenance.
  4. Equipment should be regularly maintained.
  5. The working surface of the copier should be at a comfortable height for the operator.
  6. Where necessary, a collating table at a comfortable working height should be provided.
  7. For any chemicals used, MSDS should be readily available.

Related information