Fiber Optic Testing & Safety

BY: Christina Hansen


Many people who install or maintain fiber optic cables do not take proper safety precautions to avoid the many hazards that can be caused by fiber optics. They assume that because optical fiber doesn't carry electricity, it is not dangerous. Unfortunately, accidents occur because of this assumption.

There are three categories involved in safety protection issues when working with fiber optics. These are eye protection, fiber fragment control, and safe use of chemicals.

Hazards of Working with Fiber Optics

When working with fiber optics, a person's eyes can be damaged by the transmitting of light. Anyone looking directly at the transmission of such frequencies can suffer loss of visual acuity or blind spots because the beam is focused on the retina.

The fibers themselves are a very serious hazard since they are small pieces of glass. If possible, use a dark mat that is chemical-resistant and as resilient as the work surface so when small fragments fall, they can be seen easily and picked up with tweezers.

When a worker is trimming, stripping, or cutting fibers, tiny fragments can penetrate the skin and become embedded, causing a serious irritation. Ingested fibers can cause internal damage since they are light enough to float in air. Because of this, workers should not eat or drink in a fiber optic work area since a fiber scrap could fall onto their food or in their drink.

There are also many chemicals and solvents used in cleaning and splicing fiber optics, which can be hazardous.

Fiber Optic Safety Rules

When working with fiber optics, all employees performing any splicing or termination activities should always wear safety glasses with side shields. Any other employees or site managers entering the work area should wear safety glasses with side shields also.

Unless an employee is absolutely sure there is not a light source at the other end, they should never look directly into the end of the cable. A power meter can be used to make certain the fiber is dark.

While working with fiber optics, the worker needs a well-ventilated and well-lit work area. Workers must avoid smoking while working with fiber optics.

Also, all food and beverages should be kept out of the work area.  Workers can wear disposable aprons to keep fiber particles off their clothing. Before leaving the work area, an employee should always check their clothing for pieces of stray fiber, and if any are found, they can remove it with double-sided tape.

A worker should wash their hands thoroughly before touching their eyes, and contact lens wearers should wash their hands before touching their lenses. Workers should also read all instructional material before handling chemicals.

A disposable container that can be tightly closed must be used for fiber scraps. When finished with a fiber optic job, all cut fiber pieces should be disposed of properly along with any used chemicals and containers. The work area should be thoroughly cleaned when job is completed.

Following these simple fiber optic safety rules can keep workers healthy and the work environment safe for all employees.