The telecommunication industry contains many confined spaces. Even simple above ground termination boxes may contain gas hazards that is generated from the cables runs underground. Gases such as methane, carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulphide can run through the cable trunking and appear when the termination box is opened.
Fixed systems are also required in “hub sites” and remote buildings. These are locations where cables are terminated and junctions or take off points are put into the networks. The danger risk can occur when a worker is sent to do carry out tasks in these locations, that may not have been accessed for a period of time. All telecommunications companies have these in abundance.
As there are many confined spaces in the telecommunication industry workers are more at risk from the presence of hazardous and toxic gases here. Hazardous gases can also be linked to seemingly-simple above-ground termination boxes. Gases such as methane, carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulphide sometimes travel through the cable trunking, and therefore, when the termination box is opened, a build-up of these gases can be released.
Fixed systems in the telecommunication sector also pose a gas risk, specifically in “hub sites” and remote buildings. These locations are dangerous, where cables are terminated and junctions or take off points are put into the networks. The danger risk can become present when a worker is sent to carry out tasks in locations that may not have been accessed for a period of time. This is very common in the telecommunication sector, where the trend towards more reliable equipment results in a reduce need for intervention. Although a positive, increased risks such as these, and the presence of toxic gases that can harm human health needs to be managed and mitigated. This is why it is so important to make sure that all workers have access to the proper gas detection equipment.
Enclosed or partially enclosed spaces with high levels of methane in the air reduce the amount of oxygen available to breathe and therefore can cause mood changes, speech and vision problems, memory loss, nausea, sickness, facial flushing and headaches. In more severe cases and prolonged exposure, there may be changes in breathing and heart rate, balance problems, numbness, and unconsciousness. There is also a risk of fire as methane is highly flammable.
Carbon monoxide consumption also poses serious health issues to workers, with those ingesting the toxic substance facing flu-like symptoms, chest pain, confusion, fainting arrhythmias, seizures, or even worse health effects for high or long lasting exposures. Hydrogen sulphide poisoning causes similar issues, as well as delirium, tremors, convulsions, and skin and eye irritation. High concentrations can produce extremely rapid unconsciousness and death.
Those working in the telecommunications industry are at risk from many different dangers, all of which could cause harm to their health and safety. Falls from heights are a possibility due to the location of operations from various elevated vantage points, such as communication towers.
Engineers working in the sector are required to secure harnesses whilst ascending telephone poles to check the cables, obviously with suitable training to do so.
There is also the risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals, such as methane, carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulphide.
Workers are also at risk due to their proximity to microwave and RF radiation, known as non-ionizing radiation. Working amongst, or near to, electromagnetic waves can lead to severe long-term health issues, such as cancer and leukaemia, although unproven. Conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and chronic fatigue are also found in individuals who are exposed to heat waves over a long period of time. Whilst little is proven linking disease to these adverse environments, awareness of them and minimising the risks that could lead to adverse effects is a well-known safety principle.
Alongside working at height, hazardous chemicals and radiation risks, workers in the sector also come up against harsh weather conditions, which make challenging work even more difficult. Whether the conditions are hot or cold; without proper PPE or other required equipment workers are more vulnerable to associated health risks.
Electrical issues such as fluctuating voltage and associated malfunctions and short circuits, put workers at risk of electrocution. Training and proper PPE can help protect workers from these hazards.