Document Storage And Paper Fleas: Advice For Office Managers

While many organisations now focus on paperless and digital working, a lot of Australian businesses must still hold on to archived paper records. For example, many financial institutions store old paper documents because it is too time-consuming and expensive to convert those documents to an electronic format. However, these paper records can create problems for people working in the office. Learn more about paper mites and fleas, and find out what you need to do to control the problem.

About the phenomenon

Many Australian businesses and organisations believe they have a problem with paper mites or fleas. In offices where you store significant amounts of paper, many people believe that these annoying critters live amongst the paper sheets, venturing out solely to feed off your employees' blood.

Employees will often report the symptoms of a paper flea infestation. Itchy, red bumps are a common sign of the problem, especially around the ankles, which many people attribute to the fleas jumping on to the first available area of skin that walks past.

In fact, despite all these experiences and anecdotes, it may surprise you to learn that there is no evidence that paper fleas and mites even exist. So what is causing the problem?

Causes of the symptoms

While a regular flea infestation is possible, it's more likely that the problem is due to factors in the office environment. The itchy bumps that people mistakenly attribute to paper fleas generally occur due to particles in the office air that irritate your colleagues' skin.

Examples of irritating particles include:

  • Fibreglass from wall, ceiling or vent insulation

  • Carpet fibres

  • Tiny shards of paper

These particles don't affect everyone in the office, but some people are sensitive to these allergens. When the allergens come into contact with the person's skin, the body's immune system produces histamine in the blood, which leads to the infamous itchy bumps.

How the office environment can make things worse

Many office environments worsen the symptoms for affected workers. For example, a new carpet may release more fibres, while old, worn carpet tiles can have the same effect. Similarly, poor maintenance of the office air conditioning system can mean that essential filters don't work properly.

Large amounts of paper storage can worsen the problem, especially if you have to prepare documents before storing them. For example, if you have to tear slips off the bottom of certain documents, you will release lots of tiny particles into the air. As such, any activity that means you have to handle a lot of paperwork can exacerbate the problem for your people.

Controlling the problem

It's important to maintain document storage areas to minimise the risk of allergic reactions. If possible, keep document storage away from workers in the office. A separate room or floor is ideal, but if this isn't possible, try to contain the documents in a single area. Vinyl floors can make it easier to control paper dust. Carpet tiles will often trap paper particles, and you may also need to contend with problematic carpet fibres too.

Office managers should also keep up regular maintenance of air conditioning systems. Replace filters regularly to contain particles that the system may otherwise circulate around the building. It's important to educate employees, too. Make sure workers know that you don't have paper fleas, and try to place people who suffer an allergic reaction as far away from document storage as possible.

Considering an outsourced facility

An outsourced document storage facility may offer a more suitable alternative for many businesses, especially where you need to store a lot of paperwork. These climate-controlled facilities will make sure nothing happens to the documents, but you won't need to worry about the effect paper particles will have on sensitive office workers.

What's more, a commercial storage facility can offer the latest high-tech security access, which is crucial for businesses that need to store private and confidential documents. Shifting document storage to an external facility can also free up office space for more meeting rooms or desks.

Many people in offices mistakenly believe they must contend with an outbreak of paper mites or fleas, but these creatures don't exist. Talk to a commercial storage facility for more information about solutions to your document storage challenges.