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A Guide To Printer Safety
What would the modern office be without a printer? With so many in the market now there is always more than one model to choose from to handle your printing needs. Most of us look for the most compatible and affordable model, take them home or to the office and hook them up to a desktop or network to serve several computers. While printers are user friendly machines, they are still machines with moving parts operating with liquids. Some models even produce a considerable amount of heat when printing. What most people tend to overlook is safety for the printer itself, for the people it serves, and for the environment. Let us take a look at some printer safety tips that will help keep your office or home a "printer safe" place to work.

Securing the Printer

Let's say you just bought a new printer for your home or office - the first thing you'll be thinking about is where to put it. The easy thing to do is to place it right beside your computer if you're the only user, or on a stand or shelf where the printer if it is to be connected to a network. If you are planning on placing the printer on the same workspace as your computer or laptop, you should ensure that all wiring is neatly tucked away. The last thing you would want is someone tripping over a USB cable or power cable, dragging the printer to the floor along with everything else. The same can be said for the laptop or desktop PC on your table - keep all cables secure.

The desktop is where most personal printers find themselves in homes and offices around the world. But you may think twice about getting personal with that printer when you learn that some studies have shown that laser printers emit particulate matter into the air while printing. The particulate matter comes from the toner of the printer which is the ink that sticks to the paper. Since particulate matter that was never meant for inhalation isn't good for you, you may want to relocate that laser printer near an open window or better yet leave the room while you're printing. Even if you don't own a laser printer, relocating your printer to a separate location will free up your workspace and you'll be less distracted from your job while the printer is doing its' job.


Be sure your surface is suitable for your printer.  Both to handle
its weight, and vibration, without causing mishap.

Purchasing a dedicated printer stand is a good idea if you regularly print a lot of pages. Your desk will no longer have the vibrations normally associated with desktop printers and you will also be able to store your printer paper in a more convenient location - with the printer. Most printer stands are portable allowing you to move the printer to any location in your home or office and some models have space for a fax machine - another machine that should be moved off your table!

Environmental Considerations

Printer toner or ink, as it is commonly called, comes in a variety of colors and uses. Most are for paper while some are for plastic such as acetate sheets or specialty paper. Regardless of the application, ink should be disposed of properly and never ingested. Ink should never be poured down a sink or handled with bare hands. Ink may contain substances which can irritate the eyes and skin. It should be washed off immediately when you or a pet comes into contact with it. Empty ink cartridges can be returned to the manufacturer for recycling or reuse and you can also dispose of cartridges in the "green" recyclable garbage.

Power

As with all electronic equipment, a printer consumes electricity. The amount depends on how often you or your office prints documents, but with all modern printers the power consumption isn't that much. Even so, it's a good idea to enable the sleep function on your computer if it isn't already enabled. This function allows the printer to switch-off after a few minutes of inactivity. Some printers allow you to configure how long the printer will wait before it will go into sleep mode. To wake up the printer, simply send it a print job and it starts up automatically.


Take care with your printer's electrical power cables. 
More inexpensive printers use much lower cost components, including connectors, that can become damaged.

You can keep a printer plugged in all day and inkjet printer manufacturers recommend that you use the sleep function of the printer instead of unplugging it when not in use. The reason for this is because inkjet cartridges have a capping mechanism that covers the cartridge head preventing it from drying up. Unplugging the printer turns-off this mechanism which may lead to cartridges prematurely drying up before the ink is fully consumed. As with any electrical equipment, always plug the printer into a properly grounded and fused outlet to protect both you and your printer.

Maintenance

At anytime during the life of your printer, you'll have to perform some sort of maintenance to keep it running smoothly. If you need to replace the printer ink or toner, it's a good idea to allow some printers a few minutes of inactivity before opening the cover of the ink cartridge. A printer that has just printed a load of documents may generate some heat, so some inactivity will allow things to cool off. When replacing the cartridge remember to seat it properly and don't replace any cartridges that aren't completely empty yet. Most printers need to remain powered when replacing the ink cartridge so never place any metal objects inside the printer while replacing ink and keep any liquids away.


Inject printers are especially fragile now.  Always exercise care
when changing cartridges are unjamming your printer.

Cleaning the printer is usually a more regular activity than replacing ink. There are care and cleaning tips in your printers' manual, outlining how to properly clean a printer. Most manuals instruct owners to use a clean soft cloth when wiping the exterior. The cloth can be dampened with water but never soaking wet. Other liquids such as alcohol should be avoided as these can discolor the body of the printer. There are some cleaning products specifically for use on printers, but these should be used with care. Contact the manufacturer of your printer if you're not sure about using a particular cleaning product on your printer.

Norbert John C. Emata
Staff Technology Writer

Tags: printers, printer repair, printer maintenance, printer safety

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