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Photocopy rooms

While we reduce the amount of paper being used in offices, copying and printing machines are still commonplace in offices. Properly maintained machines in a well-ventilated area are usually not a hazard.

Commonly, large batches of photocopy paper are purchased at one time and stored in or near the photocopy room and usually on the floor. Lifting and moving copy paper can cause a muscle strain if not carried out properly.


  • Use sealed toner cartridges.
  • Only employ the use of trained personnel to replace toner.
  • Avoid twisting the body when lifting or carry items.
  • Bend at the knees when lifting items.

Potential harm

  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Breathing issues

Identified hazards and controls

Atmospheric contaminants


  • Inhaling toner dust and other contaminants.

What workers can do

  • Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions if you are changing the toner cartridge. The cartridge is generally safe unless the contents spill.
  • Refrain from changing the toner if you are someone who has a pre-existing respiratory condition, to avoid exacerbating any of these conditions from airborne contaminants.
  • Use the exhaust fan if one is provided.
  • Avoid standing near the printer for long printing jobs. Leave it to print and come back later.
  • If the printer is in a room, leave the door open to assist with air flow through the room. This is generally enough airflow to dissipate concentrations of contaminants.

What employers can do

  • Use sealed toner cartridges.
  • Make safety data sheets (SDS) available for the storage and handling of toner.
  • Consider replacing older style printers that use loose toner to a sealed cartridge type.
  • If the printer is in a small room and used frequently, install an extractor fan that vents any fumes or particles outside, or to a more appropriate location. Adequate ventilation will ensure atmospheric contaminants do not build up to levels that may pose a risk to the health of employees around these machines.
  • If the room has a door, instruct workers to leave door the open to assist air flow through the room. If noise is a concern or the door is closed for other reasons, the effect on ventilation should be assessed and appropriate modifications made.
  • Regularly maintain machines to check filters are the correct type, clean and replaced regularly.

Musculoskeletal disorders


  • Lifting and moving photocopy paper or boxes.

What workers can do

  • Avoid twisting the body when lifting or carry items. Muscle strains can occur suddenly and may result from forceful exertion in a bent or twisted posture.
  • Bend at the knees when picking up items located below your knees, using leg drive and maintaining a neutral (straight) spine position.
  • Don’t lift more than what you are capable of.

What employers can do

  • Purchase boxes of paper with less reams in them, this reduces the weight and size of each box to be carried.
  • Provide a trolley that adapts to the weight - as weight is removed, the floor of the trolley raises to ensure the user doesn’t have to bend down low to reach items.
  • Purchase smaller quantities more often and store them on shelves at a height between the knees and shoulders.
  • Provide suitable storage areas for paper.

More information




Page last reviewed: 04 May 2021

Comcare (Office Safety tool)
GPO Box 9905, Canberra, ACT 2601
1300 366 979 |

Date printed 25 Apr 2024