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Exploding paper shredders?

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  • Exploding paper shredders?

    We had a paper shredder "explosion" call today at a local business with one injury. A witness described a red/orange flash and a loud pop. The victim sustained minor burns to the arms, face, and hair.

    My top three uneducated guesses as to cause are a paper dust explosion (deflagration?), electrical arc, and flash fire involving gasses from an overheated motor or housing.

    I'm not doing an origin and cause on this, but my curiosity is up. Anyone have a similar experience and know a cause? I've been too busy to check out the CPSC, etc. yet but I'll be giving them a look later this morning.
    ullrichk
    a.k.a.
    perfesser

    a ship in a harbor is safe. . . but that's not what ships are for

  • #2
    Originally posted by ullrichk
    We had a paper shredder "explosion" call today at a local business with one injury. A witness described a red/orange flash and a loud pop. The victim sustained minor burns to the arms, face, and hair.

    My top three uneducated guesses as to cause are a paper dust explosion (deflagration?), electrical arc, and flash fire involving gasses from an overheated motor or housing.

    I'm not doing an origin and cause on this, but my curiosity is up. Anyone have a similar experience and know a cause? I've been too busy to check out the CPSC, etc. yet but I'll be giving them a look later this morning.
    Boy, that shredder must really do a good job. It makes paper into powder. Just kidding..... I can see that over time, if you just empty the paper and not clean out the dust, it could cause a problem. Have never heard of one exploding before. I wonder what UL has to say about this? Keep us posted if you find out anything!!!
    Just someone trying to help! (And by the way....Thanks for YOUR help!)

    Aggressive does not have to equal stupid.

    ** "The comments made here are this person's views and possibly that of the organizations to which I am affiliated" **

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    • #3
      Sounds odd. I couldn't imagine that, if used properly, a shredder would cause such an action. Perhaps it was being used in a way that it shouldn't? Such as someone spraying a flammable lubricant into the openings? Just tossing it out there. I've never heard of it or read of it.

      Comment


      • #4
        Did the shredder have a capacitor in it?

        Even a small capacitor on a circuit board can make a good bang if over loaded


        Jerry
        [email protected]

        Comment


        • #5
          Are you suggesting a capacitor as an ignition source or as a the sole cause of the flash?

          I don't know if the shredder had capacitors or not, but then I wouldn't be the one tearing into equipment for an investigation, either.
          ullrichk
          a.k.a.
          perfesser

          a ship in a harbor is safe. . . but that's not what ships are for

          Comment


          • #6
            I cant say for sure in a paper shredder, but have seen capacitors exploded in air conditioning units after a high voltage surge, i.e. lightning strike, power spike etc. They can do some damage and will show burn marks and compromised wire insulation inside of the A/C unit. Now put that into a paper shredder and, well you might as well put a match to gunpowder.

            This is my theory as some of the large whole office size shredders do have a hefty capacitor in them to kick the motor, also some capacitors are oil filled which could have caused the burns to the victim in this case, not necessarill by a flash fire.

            Jerry
            [email protected]

            Comment


            • #7
              If you looking buy paper shredders or Shredder Oil.

              I Recommend Astore at

              cheap fellowes paper shredders & cheap paper shredders

              Comment


              • #8
                It is unlikely that the unit has a capacitor. It is equally unlikely that there was any off-gassing due to an overheated motor. My guess is that this thing had something put in it that didn't belong there.
                PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Depends on the "type" of shredder, a small unit, probably not but a commercial unit?? You bet, like a commercial copier those units are Big with the ability to shred hundreds of sheets. We got one at work, the thing can shred a book if you threw it at it :-)

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    My guess is that this thing had something put in it that didn't belong there.

                    Originally posted by GeorgeWendtCFI View Post
                    It is unlikely that the unit has a capacitor. It is equally unlikely that there was any off-gassing due to an overheated motor. My guess is that this thing had something put in it that didn't belong there.
                    Perhaps some type of lubricant spray was used while the unit was running? Those arcing motor brushes are a great ignition source (Isobutane propellant).I can’t imagine anyone being so careless.

                    I was lucky I wasn’t looking into my shredder when I blew it up.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I'm not a fire investigator. But I know a thing or two about electricity and paper shredders so here's my opinion on the matter.

                      I think it is safe to say the burns and injuries were not the direct result of an electrical arc to the human's arms. We're talking about a 120vac paper shredder here, not a transmission substation. You would have to actually touch something energized for 120vac to travel through your body. And from personal intimate experience, it doesn't leave entry or exit burns (ask me how I know...). So, the electricity did not cause the burns or the flash. However, the small electrical spark from the motor brushes or anything else in there could easily be an ignition source for some other flammable matter.

                      It would help to know what kind of shredder this was. The really big ones that turn paper into powder have oil tanks and a pump to lubricate it. I do not know enough about that oil to guess if it was a part in this and it may not have even been a feature of the involved shredder. However, I can take an educated guess that the vapor and flammability is probably pretty low considering it is used in an office. I have a hard time picturing vapors from that actually igniting and flashing out at the user, however it is one of the only things I can think of it.

                      If the flash was the result of paper dust or paper shreddings igniting, I would think there would be evidence of such. Ash or burnt junk.
                      Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        If it is one of the larger officer shredders, there is a chance that someone accidentally dumped a butane lighter in the hopper.

                        The town I work in has a document destruction company and we usually get called out 4-5 times a year for a fire that has progressed beyond their abilities. Needless to say after the last one we told them to do some more proactive measures to decrease the fires

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I'm glad to see this thread getting some attention after being neglected for two years! I find it amusing that a spammer resurrected it.

                          The shredder was only slightly larger than a garden-variety homeowner type shredder; it was no commercial monster. We had a lightning strike on the station recently so I can't look up the make and model at the moment.

                          There were no solvents or lubricants in the vicinity. I looked for one of those "dust blower" canisters as well and didn't find anything nearby.

                          It seems like I dug up one other case like this, but it was a customer complaint and not a true case study.
                          ullrichk
                          a.k.a.
                          perfesser

                          a ship in a harbor is safe. . . but that's not what ships are for

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Home from emergency with 2nd degree burns

                            Typing with one hand today as last night I was using compressed air to clean the optical paper sensor on my fellowes paper shredder. The blast was short, fast and hot! I am assuming that the vapors collected in the waste compartment and ignited by the motor. I feel like an absolute idiot. The can is covered with warnings about paper shredders. If anyone has any questions please let me know. All four fingers on my left hand are covered in 2nd degree burns. I don't think I will ever use a shredder again...ugh. Doctor said my hand should be good in 2 weeks...I was lucky. Could've been my eyes. Shredder still works so I don't think it was a cap explosion (it was running while I dove for the freezer). I can't believe that the paper shreds didn't ignite and was relieved to see my house still standing by the time I got home from the emergency.

                            Found this thread on google.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by GeorgeWendtCFI View Post
                              It is unlikely that the unit has a capacitor. It is equally unlikely that there was any off-gassing due to an overheated motor. My guess is that this thing had something put in it that didn't belong there.
                              God, I'm a genius.
                              PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

                              Comment

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