Better to be safe

Writing this the morning after I heard (but didn’t see) my three-year-old take a fall down the stairs, I’m doubly embarrassed.

Writing this the morning after I heard (but didn’t see) my three-year-old take a fall down the stairs, I’m doubly embarrassed. Of course I see last night’s tumble as a result of bad parenting on my part because my back was turned when the accident happened.

The double embarrassment comes from the fact that I had just worked on the article by The Fiber Optic Association’s Jim Hayes that begins on page 9 of this month’s issue. A good portion of that article deals with the proper safety precautions that technicians must take when working with optical fiber and its connecting hardware.

Hayes points out that many fiber technicians’ preoccupation with eye safety, specifically in regard to laser sources, is only part of the issue. In fact, his article says, the dangers of communications-grade lasers are not as severe as many believe. Still, proper precaution is not just prudent but mandatory.

An often-overlooked area of fiber safety that also relates to the eye is the precarious position technicians can be in if they leave fiber scraps or shards at the worksite. In fact, if a technician does not meticulously and properly dispose of each piece of scrap, there is no guarantee that what is left will in fact stay at the worksite. A small fiber shard can attach to a piece of clothing, unnoticed. Whether that clothing belongs to the technician or someone who enters the jobsite after the tech has left (and left these scraps behind), the clothing is a vehicle that can carry the fiber just about anywhere.

Last night, as I held a bag of ice to my daughter’s right eye, I apologized to her for letting her out of sight and allowing the fall to happen. But I won’t apologize to you for the several times I’ve climbed on the safety soapbox in these pages over the past few years. I know what it sounds like: “Listen to me when I tell you to work safely with fiber, even though I’m obviously not the most astute practitioner of safety measures myself.” But in a way, that’s exactly the point. We’re all prone to error, especially with tasks that we repeatedly perform.

My older children often remind me, “Dad, you’re always telling us what to do.” Hopefully you won’t find my plea for fiber safety as obnoxious as they find my pleas for brushed teeth, cleaned rooms, and so on.

If your organization does not have a set policy on the safe use of fiber, please implement one. And if it has a policy that fails to live up to the highest safety standards, just do what Sarah Palin would do: Refudiate it.

PATRICK McLAUGHLIN
Chief Editor
patrick@pennwell.com

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