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6 Heavy Duty Shredder Features You Need for NSA Compliance

By Randy Green August 23, 2022

Although the tag “NSA-compliant” isn’t an endorsement from the National Security Agency, it’s still reassuring of a shredder’s quality and security.

As such, the tag is an excellent selection strategy for shredders, but there’s one problem: the list of NSA-compliant devices comes out quarterly and is subject to delays.

So, with the thousands of models released every year, how can you spot the best ones not yet on the list?

By looking for NSA-compliance features in them.

To help you with this task, we’ve determined six compliance features you need to look for in high-quality shredders. As we go through them, you’ll learn:

  • Why NSA compliance requires English user guides
  • Why long operation shredders have a low noise limit 
  • Why surface temperatures above 140°F are unacceptable
  • Where to find NSA compliant shredders

Feature 1 - User Guide

For NSA compliance, heavy-duty shredders feature user manuals to guide evaluations by the agency and to advise users on operating the machines.

This evaluation is a rigorous assessment of a shredder’s capabilities that’s impossible without documentation from the manufacturer. The agency can’t test claims not made by the manufacturer.

These manuals must be in English to accommodate international applications and include:

  • A clear-cut description of the shredder, for instance, its model number and manufacturer  
  • A complete list of the media the shredder can handle
  • An accurate list of specifications such as power consumption and motor size
  • A full list of the shredder’s features and functions; failing to list a feature leads to disqualification
  • A detailed list of safety procedures and allowed maintenance

As the final user, this level of detail required from manuals of heavy-duty shredders is why they’re your only option for safe and lengthy service.

Heavy-duty shredder manuals cover every aspect and eventuality to ensure appropriate usage and care, extending their service life.

Feature 2 - Noise Limiters

According to the NSA, there are two classifications of noises generated by your shredder:

  • Impulse noises - Are sharp and almost instantaneous and typical of jamming
  • Continuous noises - Are generated during routine operation and also called occupational noises

For NSA compliance, both sounds must meet specific requirements. Impulse noises must be less than 120 decibels (dB), while continuous noises must meet the limits highlighted in the table below.

Duration Of Operation Per Day Permitted Noise Limit (Decibels)
8 hours 90
6 hours 92
4 hours 95
3 hours 97
2 hours 100
1 hour 30 minutes 102

Source: US Department of Defense

The permitted noise limit varies with a given paper shredder’s operation time. The longer your shredder operates, the lower its permitted noise limit, and vice versa.

The reason for this variation is that prolonged exposure to high sound levels is more impactful to users and the environment than a brief encounter with them.

shredders are up to date

Feature 3 - Vibration Limiters

Unchecked vibration causes safety concerns, creates noise, and accelerates wear on your shredders.

For these reasons, the NSA provides a range of acceptable vibration velocities for all electrical devices, including heavy-duty shredders.

The acceptable vibration range depends on the size of your shredder, measurable by the amount of energy it uses to operate—kilowatts (kW).

The following are the various classes of electrical equipment (including shredders) according to the NSA:

  • Class A - small machines of up to 15 kW
  • Class B - 15–75 kW machines on light foundations & 15–300 kW machines on heavy foundations
  • Class C - machines above 300 kW on heavy and rigid foundation
  • Class D - machines above 300 kW on flexible foundations

Most heavy-duty office shredders fall under class A with a typical rating of 2.5 kW. Their ranges of acceptable vibration are highlighted in the table below.

Vibration Velocity Rating
0.04–0.07 inches/second Satisfactory
0.01–0.03 inches/second Good
Above 0.03 inches/second Unsatisfactory

Source: Department of Defense

These vibration measurements are taken at various spots around a shredder using digital instruments.

Feature 4 - Thermal Insulation

NSA compliance demands that shredders feature thermal insulation to keep surface temperatures at or below 104°F (44°C).

This temperature avoids the risk of causing burns to operators, which is especially present with heavy-duty shredders that can operate for up to 8 hours, stretching the duration of heat exposure to its users.

A typical user can touch a 104°F surface for a maximum of six hours without suffering damage to the skin.

NSA compliance defines these surfaces as areas of the shredder that the operator can access to perform routine functions:

  • Emptying debris
  • Performing maintenance
  • Resetting motors

These areas are measured during testing, and if found to exceed the 104°F threshold, they must contain visible warning labels of this fact.

With or without labels, shredders with surface temperatures above 140°F (60°C) are unacceptable.

The following table highlights the dangers of high surface temperatures to the skin and explains why temperatures above 140°F are unacceptable.

Temperature Range Effect Injury Status
96–104°F Normal metabolism None
105–140°F Thermal inactivation of tissue Reversible
141–162°F Thermal inactivation ion of tissue Possibly reversible
Above 162°F Protein coagulation Irreversible

Source: Department of Defense

Surface temperatures of 140°F fall within the maximum pain threshold with the possibility of injury reversal. As such, this temperature is the absolute limit for shredders—though not recommended.

NSA guidelines recommend a maximum surface temperature of 104°F because it causes no injury to the skin, only a warm to hot sensation. This NSA requirement is standard for heavy-duty shredders and why they’re your only option for a safe working environment.

Feature 5 - Easy Calibration and Maintenance

shredder control panel

All shredders, regardless of quality, will need calibration and maintenance over the course of their usage. NSA compliance demands safe and reasonable effort in performing this task.

Examples of safe and reasonable efforts include:

  • Jamming units must be clearable within 5 minutes.
  • Changing filters must not require special tools.
  • Changing filters must not take more than 5 minutes.
  • Lubricants should be applicable and replaceable within 5 minutes.
  • Resetting a thermal-induced automatic shutdown must not take longer than 10 minutes.

Feature 6 - Operator Protection Functions

To effectively control the potential hazards of heavy-duty shredders, such as projectiles and pinch points from moving parts, NSA compliance demands that all shredders feature the following protection functions:

  • Safety shield - Your shredder must have a shielding mechanism that protects the operator from contact with any moving parts or projectiles during sanitation.

    Your machine must not be operational if the shielding mechanism is damaged, missing, or disengaged.

  • Tight fit - Your shredder must have a tight fit and no openings greater than two millimeters between panels or doors.

    This safety requirement prevents the possibility of injury from projectiles during routine operations.

  • Reverse feed - Your shredder must feature a reverse mechanism that’s automatic or manual for ejecting media during emergencies.

  • Emergency off - Your shredder must feature a single-action emergency stop mechanism that overrides all non-protective functions. This feature is especially critical in case of a malfunction.

    The stop mechanism must be clearly labeled and within 20 inches of the shredder’s sanitization input and must not start the shredder when disengaged.

    The emergency off protocol must be documented with instructions on how to reset the device.

Here’s an example of an emergency off button from the Formax FD 87HDS Hard Drive Shredder, available at  Armadillo Industrial Supplies. 

Notice how the trigger is clearly labeled and within the NSA-recommended 20 inches from the shredder’s feed (green arrow).

emergency off button next to sanitization input

This heavy-duty shredder is built around security and also features the following crucial operator protection functions:

  • Fully Enclosed Shredding Chambers - Metal shields close during operation to protect the user
  • Door Safety Sensor - Automatically stops the shredder’s motor if the cabinet door is open
  • Thermal Overload Protection - Stops the motor from overheating

These safety features and more are why you must only rely on heavy-duty shredders for high-quality service. They go beyond the NSA minimum with extra functions such as overload protection and auto blade cleaning from the Formax FD 87HDS. 

Get an American Solution for All Your Shredding Needs

So there you have it, six shredder features you need for NSA compliance. 

Now, with these requirements in mind, are you in the market for a top-quality shredder?

If so, we can help.

At Armadillo Industrial Supplies, our focus is on customer service and savings. Our shredders are up-to-date with current industry standards and come with free shipping and no sales tax outside of Texas.

Customer service is outstanding. In a world where customer service is an after though, Armadillo has exceeded my expectations. Ryan, Armadillo customer

We’re also proud to let you know that our company is:

  • Veteran-owned and operated
  • Fully American
  • Solution-oriented

Contact us today and let Armadillo Industrial Supplies be part of your solution.

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