Fiber Optic Association
- Tech Topics
Fiber Optic Installations
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people think of safety
in fiber optic installations, the first thing that comes to mind
is eye damage from laser light in the fiber. They have an image
of a laser burning holes in metal or perhaps burning off warts.
While these images may be real for their applications, they have
little relevance to most types of fiber optic communications.
Eye safety is an issue, but usually not from light in the fiber.
However, fiber optics installation is not without risks.
Optical sources used in fiber optics, especially LEDs used in premises
networks, are of much lower power levels than used for laser surgery or
cutting materials. Even the output of OTDRs, WDM and fiber amplifier
systems, which are much higher than LED systems, are still well below
that used in laser surgery or machining.
- The light
that exits an optical fiber is also spreading out in a cone, so the
farther away from the end of the fiber your eye is, the lower the
amount of power your eye receives. If you are using a microscope, which
can efficiently focus all the light into your eye, it should have
infrared filters to reduce the danger of invisible infrared light.
infrared light in fiber optic links is at a wavelength that cannot
penetrate your eye easily because it's absorbed by the water in your
eyeball. Light in
the 1300-1550 nm range is unlikely to damage your retina, but might
harm the cornea or lens.
- A typical
laser pointer, which has a beam that is collimated (not expanding), and
is at visible wavelength (650 nm) where the eye is transparent, is
probably more danger to the retina than a fiber optic link.
That being said, it's not a good idea to look into a fiber unless you
know no source is being transmitted down it. Since the light is
infrared, you can't see it, which means you cannot tell if there is
light present by looking at it. You should always check the fiber with
a power meter before examining it.
The real issue of eye safety is getting fiber scraps into the eye. As
part of the termination and splicing process, you will be continually
exposed to small scraps of bare fiber, cleaved off the ends of the
fibers being terminated or spliced. These scraps are very dangerous. If
they get into your eyes, they are very hard to flush out and will
probably lead to a trip to the emergency room at the hospital. Whenever
you are working with fiber, wear safety glasses!
Bare Fiber Safety
The broken ends of fibers and scraps of fiber created during
termination and splicing can be extremely dangerous. The ends are
extremely sharp and can easily penetrate your skin. They invariably
break off and are very hard to find and remove. Sometimes a pair of
tweezers and perhaps a magnifying glass will get them out. Most of the
time, you have to wait to let them infect and work themselves out,
which can be painful!
Be careful when handling fibers to not stick the broken ends into your
fingers. Dispose of all scraps properly. Some people keep a piece of
double stick tape on the bench to stick fiber scraps onto. I prefer to
use a dedicated container for all fiber scraps. In our training
programs, we use the same paper containers used for takeout at the
deli, in the pint size, with a lid. We put all the scraps in the
container, then when finished, put on the lid, tape it and dispose of
it later. Do not drop fiber scraps on the floor where they will stick
in carpets or shoes and be carried elsewhere-like home!
Obviously do not eat or drink anywhere near the work area. Fiber scraps
can get into food or drink and be swallowed. The scraps can imbed
themselves in you digestive system and never be found. Doesn't sound
too appetizing, does it?!
Fiber optic splicing and termination use various chemical cleaners
and adhesives as part of the processes. Normal handling procedures
for these substances should be observed. If you are not certain
of how to deal with them, ask the manufacturer for a MSDS. Always
work in well-ventilated areas. Avoid skin contact as much as possible,
and stop using chemicals that cause allergic reactions. Even simple
isopropyl alcohol, used as a cleaner, is flammable and should
be handled carefully.
Note that fusion splicers use an electric arc to make splices,
so care must be taken to insure no flammable gasses are contained
in the space where fusion splicing is done. Splicing is never
done in manholes where gasses can accumulate. The cables are brought
up to the surface into a splicing trailer where all fiber work
is done. Of course the splicing trailer is temperature-controlled
and kept spotlessly clean to insure good splicing.
Smoking should also not be allowed around fiber optic work. The
ashes from smoking contribute to the dirt problems with fibers,
in addition to the chance of explosions due to the presence of
You might be wondering what electrical safety has to do with fiber
optics. Well fiber cables are often installed around electrical
cables. Electricians are well-trained in electrical safety, but
some fiber optic installers are not. We've heard rumors of fiber
installers being shocked when working around electrical cables,
but know that two fiber installers were killed when working on
aerial cables because we heard about it from OSHA.
These two installers were installing all-dielectric self-supporting
aerial cables on poles. The hangers, however, were metal and over
six feet long. Both had attached the hangers to the poles, then
when installing the fiber cables had rotated the hangers enough
to contact high-voltage lines.
So even if the fiber is not conductive, fiber hardware can conduct
electricity or the installer can come in contact with live electrical
wires when working in proximity to AC power.
Optic Installation Safety
1. Keep all
food and beverages
out of the work area. If fiber particles are ingested they can
cause internal hemorrhaging
2. Wear disposable aprons to minimize fiber particles on your
clothing. Fiber particles on your clothing can later get into
food, drinks, and/or be ingested by other means.
3. Always wear safety glasses with side shields and protective
gloves. Treat fiber optic splinters the sarne as you would glass
4. Never look directly into the end of fiber cables until you
are positive that there is no light source at the other end. Use
a fiber optic power meter to make certain the fiber is dark. When
using an optical tracer or continuity checker, look at the fiber
from an angle at least 6 inches away from your eye to determine
if the visible light is present..
5. Only work in well ventilated areas.
6. Contact wearers must not handle their lenses until they have
thoroughly washed their hands.
7. Do not touch your eyes while working with fiber optic systems
until they have been thoroughly washed.
8. Keep all combustible materials safely away from the curing
9. Put all cut fiber pieces in a safe place.
10. Thoroughly clean your work area when you are done.
11. Do not smoke while working with fiber optic systems.
by Leonard Wasser, Tool Pouch Training
- These are
the issues that need considering for working safely!
Most Frequent Industry
Recognized Safety Violations
a.) Improper drop bonding with power
b.) Poor workmanship
c.) Incomplete construction
Project Site Safety
a.) Material storage
c.) Break areas
d.) Bathroom/cleanup facilities
e.) First aid equipment availability
f.) Work areas
g.) Power hazards
h.) Stray voltage possibilities
j.) Working in public access areas
3.) Outside Plant Safety
a.) Traffic/defensive driving
b.) Traffic control plan with permits where needed
c.) Power hazards
d.) Clearance issues when working and driving
e.) Off-road access issues
f.) Weather hazards
g.) Unsafe work areas (Including people)
h.) State mandated regulations (General Orders)
i.) Aerial construction issues
j.) Underground construction issues (800-USA DIG)
k.) Aerial lifts
m.) Working in public access areas
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