How Printers Affect the Workplace

By Elizabeth Mott

Centralizing output hardware may reduce its negative impact on workers.
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Desktop printers let your business create as many copies of its presentations, correspondence and other documents as your operations require, but these devices' contribution to the workplace comes with a mixture of positives and negatives. When you plan office space and acquire technology to add to it, examine both the advantages and the potential environmental impact of the output hardware you select.


In a 2006 Ipsos survey of knowledge workers -- employees and contracted workers who use computer software in white-collar jobs -- 94 percent cited access to a printer as the most important resource requirement for professional productivity, exceeding Internet and email access. Even communication with colleagues lagged behind the ability to print. Like most office machines, however, printers pose productivity challenges for workers with disabilities. These devices' control panels offer restricted visibility from the vantage point of a wheelchair, and provide minimal information to people with vision limitations.

Noise and Heat

Printers' operating noise may not pose an undue irritation when your office plan sets them apart from workers' desks, but with hardware positioned at ear level on a desktop, the ambient noise produced by output processes can pose a distraction or worse. Impact printers -- daisy wheel, dot matrix, line and chain devices -- create operating noise as their printheads strike the output paper. Along with sonic pollution, printers also create ambient heat, especially laser devices, which rely on heat to fuse toner onto paper. Hardware location, and even the orientation of a device relative to nearby workers, should form a primary consideration to reduce its nuisance value.


Toner-based output devices, including laser printers and copiers, produce small amounts of ozone when oxygen in the air reacts with the light sources incorporated in these machines. Although these amounts of byproduct ozone remain minimal, they can build up in a poorly ventilated room and cause respiratory distress or eye irritation. Office space planners and IT staff should remain mindful of potential hazards when they decide where to locate these technologies.

Particulates and Dust

Laser printers emit small amounts of toner while they print, adding this mixture of polymer resin, coloring agents and other substances to nearby surfaces and contaminating the air. As laser and inkjet printers process sheets of paper to create output, these supplies release dust from friction with rollers and other parts of the equipment. The combination of these substances can impair and even reduce the working life of output devices at the same time that it contributes to indoor air pollution.