Fiber-optic cables are a truly impressive form of technology.
These long, hair-thin strands of glass are arranged in bundles and are used to transmit light signals over long distances. The strands are actually smaller than a hypodermic needle, and have higher tensile strength than steel.
When it comes to installing and maintaining fiber optic cables, there are several safety measures to consider.
Keep food and beverages away from work areas
Fiber particles can easily get into food or drink and be swallowed. If ingested, they could become embedded in your digestive system and cause internal hemorrhaging.
One way to protect yourself is by wearing disposable aprons to minimize fiber particles on your clothing. Once on your clothes, the particles can easily be transferred to food and drinks.
Wear safety glasses
Not only is it important to wear safety glasses when working with fiber optics, but using side shields can also protect your eyes from fiber shards or splinters. Treat fiber optic splinters the same as glass splinters.
Never look directly into the end of fiber cables
It’s important to be positive there isn’t a light source at the other end of the cable, so make sure the fiber is at least 6 inches away from your eyes. A fiber optic power meter can help you make sure the fiber is dark.
Additionally, if you’re using a microscope, make sure it’s electronic, showing the image on a small screen. This will protect your eyes.
Also, if you’re using a product like a FiberInspector™ to examine installed fiber connectors or ensure terminations are smooth and clean, be mindful about what you touch. There’s a chance oil from your fingertips could heat up and burn the ceramic.
Don’t touch your eyes
Until your hands have been thoroughly washed, it’s important to not touch your eyes while working with fiber optic systems. On that note, contact lens wearers must not handle their lenses until they have properly washed their hands.
Properly dispose of fiber and cable scraps
A big part of disposing of fiber and cable scraps involves keeping track of these materials. It helps to work on black work mats and wear disposable lab aprons, as mentioned earlier. When you cleave fiber (generally in the fusion or termination process), small scraps of glass are produced. These scraps are very dangerous and can easily penetrate your skin.
Other safety tips from the Fiber Optic Association
- Only work in well-ventilated areas.
- Keep all combustible materials safely away from fusion splicers.
- When finished with a fiber optics lab, dispose of all scraps by placing them in a properly marked container for disposal.
- Thoroughly clean your work area.