Safety first should be more than just a slogan

In this month`s "To the Editor" column (see page 8), Donald T. Wright, a bicsi-certified trainer and training director of Compel Corp. (Santa Fe Springs, CA), tells us that he observed unsafe optical-fiber handling practices at last October`s Cabling Installation Expo `98 show. I am glad that Wright wrote us this letter because it highlights a situation brought to my attention by a number of concerned technical people both at Expo and other fall trade shows I attended--a situation that I was alr

Jan 1st, 1999

Arlyn S. Powell, Jr.

Group Editorial Director

arlynp@pennwell.com

In this month`s "To the Editor" column (see page 8), Donald T. Wright, a bicsi-certified trainer and training director of Compel Corp. (Santa Fe Springs, CA), tells us that he observed unsafe optical-fiber handling practices at last October`s Cabling Installation Expo `98 show. I am glad that Wright wrote us this letter because it highlights a situation brought to my attention by a number of concerned technical people both at Expo and other fall trade shows I attended--a situation that I was already planning to write about in this issue of Cabling Installation & Maintenance.

Wright describes vendors who threw bits of optical fiber on the floor, and then when asked about the safety of their actions, responded with flippant humor or silent anger. There are two problems with this scene: one of knowledge and one of attitude. A knowledgeable demonstrator of fiber-optic products is aware that hair-thin bits of glass can penetrate the skin, get into your eyes, and generally present a health and injury hazard. Further, this hazard may still be there long after the demonstration--and indeed the trade show--is over, injuring unsuspecting people who later come into contact with carelessly discarded fiber ends. As a result of these dangers, responsible trainers demonstrating fiber-optic technologies proceed cautiously and follow accepted safety procedures.

I believe this situation has arisen because of two factors: the rapid spread of fiber-optic technology in the premises and campus cabling industry, and the unwarranted assumption that this technology can be treated in the same way in which we handle other cabling media. For instance, when terminating copper cable, don`t we cut off cable ends, peel back and trim cable sheath, and snip wire pairs, letting the trash fall where it will? It is then sufficient to come back later with a broom and dustpan or a vacuum cleaner to clean up the mess. This long-time industry practice is not adequate for handling optical fiber.

To address this unsatisfactory and unsafe situation, we at Cabling Installation & Maintenance are proposing a three-point program:

- Over the next year, we will be paying special attention in print to cabling-industry safety practices and procedures in general and will be devoting space to fiber-optic and laser safety in particular.

- We will try to recommend safe products to you, as well as products and services that can improve your safety awareness and procedures. For example, Clauss (Fremont, OH) offers a video on fiber-optic safety, as well as the industry`s only fiber-optic safety kit. The Light Brigade (Kent, WA) offers training that incorporates safe practices, as well as a training video on fiber-optic safety. You can visit their Web sites at www.claussco.com and www.lightbrigade.com.

- We ask that you, our readers, bring to our attention unsafe situations and practices for discussion here in the pages of the magazine.

And finally, I would like to add my own personal plea to this list: I ask that sales and marketing personnel at trade shows adhere to safe practices not likely to hurt themselves or damage their equipment, and that they do so humbly and cheerfully. It is not necessary to tie a cable in knots to prove its robustness, nor should you have to drop a $50,000 optical time-domain reflectometer on the floor and kick it across the room to demonstrate its durability.

I have seen both of these things done in product demonstrations. I agree that they are dramatic and likely to make the intended points. However, unfortunately, they also set a bad example by suggesting that installers can treat products and equipment in the same way with impunity.

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