Sticking to Safety with Fiberglass Care & Maintenance

186,282 miles per second. That is the speed of light and the speed in which electricity travels. When you are up against stats like that, there is no moving out of the way, and your best line of defense is sticking to safety and making sure you and your equipment are ready for the unexpected. Fiberglass live line tools are there to distance you from the line, so proper care should be taken to keep you out of harm’s way. Regular cleaning, inspection, testing, refinishing, and proper storing will prolong the life of the fiberglass, reduce new equipment costs, and provide protection from shock and electrocution.

Keep It Clean and Glossy Environmental exposure everyday takes a toll on all forms of protective equipment. Dirt, oils, petroleum based products, water, and conditions such as dry climates, in addition to everyday use can all take their toll on fiberglass live line tools and equipment. An industry best practice is to clean fiberglass live-line tools daily, and specially-formulated fiberglass wipes make this process easy to perform. These wipes are typically infused with silicone to protect the fiberglass and makes the fiberglass more water repellent. Fiberglass should also be occasionally waxed to maintain a glossy surface which will also repel water and dirt. The use of silicone infused products and wax to repel water is important because water building up on fiberglass can actually create an electrical pathway which will, of course, lead to the user and can cause injury or death. Never use products such as degreasers, lubricants, brake fluid, kitchen cleansers, scouring pads or metallic sponges, industrial cleaning products, or any type of automotive wax. Keeping your fiberglass clean and glossy will also make inspection for damage easier.

Inspect Daily for Damage Before use, completely check fiberglass for any damage or broken parts. ASTM standards state that the external surface of fiberglass should be free of abrasions, scratches, blemishes, and surface defects (see ASTM 711-02, 8.1). Any worn, bent, or cracked components are also cause for alarm. If any damage is suspected, the equipment should be removed from service for further inspection and send the fiberglass to a professional test facility. It is an industry best practice to remove primary protection fiberglass from service every 2 years for full recertification, even if no damage is suspected, however your company’s requirements could be more stringent. Make sure to review your company’s safe work practices to ensure you are being compliant.

Recertification Whether needed due to suspected damage, or required based on the 2-year criteria for inspection, fiberglass should be sent to a professional testing facility. A restoration and testing facility, such as Hi-Line Utility Supply, would examine, clean, repair, and test fiberglass, in addition to refinishing or making any necessary repairs. Testing of fiberglass requires the tester to apply the voltage of 100kV rms at 60 Hz between electrodes, in accordance with Test Method ASTM D149, at a maximum voltage rise of 3000 V/s, in a before-moisture conditioning electrical test. Following this, there will be a moisture conditioning test, followed by a repeat of the initial test. The fiberglass will pass inspection if test results fall within the ASTM approved ranges, and if during testing, there are no signs of flashover, puncture, tracking, or erosion on the surface of the fiberglass (ASTM F711-02, Provided the fiberglass testing results passes under ASTM standards, it will be recertified, labels with recertification information, and a certificate with test results will be furnished for your records.

Refinishing Damaged Fiberglass – The Cost Effective and Green Alternative If you have a questionable fiberglass, instead of risking an outage or injury, throwing it away, or having it take up valuable space in your warehouse, try restoring it. When fiberglass is nicked, broken or damaged, it can be restored by an experienced facility. To refinish fiberglass, it must be disassembled, sanded, painted, and reassembled, while making any necessary repairs or replacement of damaged parts. Refinishing fiberglass can save one company thousands of dollars every year, in addition to being the environmentally friendly option! This unique process keeps tens of thousands of fiberglass tools out of landfills each year, and also reuses good parts minimizing repair costs and waste even further. Companies like Hi-Line Utility Supply will completely refinish and repair fiberglass, and it will arrive to you looking brand new and re-certified for use.

Storing A thorough cleaning should occur before fiberglass is stored, in order to avoid any damage from dirt and oils. Dirt rubbing against the surface of a stick can cause scratching, and petroleum based products can also damage the integrity of the fiberglass coating. Using a storage bag for hot sticks will reduce the risk of nicking and chipping, and ensuring that the equipment is stored in a bag in a secure location (not underneath other equipment) will further ensure the safety of the stick. Make sure your equipment is completely dry before storing in a temperature-controlled location, out of direct sunlight. When performing live-line work care should be taken when storing fiberglass in between uses, keeping it on tool holders or on tarps. Placing fiberglass on the ground can cause it to collect dirt and moisture, and can easily make the user unsafe and damage the equipment. Be cautious not to store it leaning against metal fences, towers, or against other rough surfaces.

Safe Work Practices In addition to cleaning, waxing, inspecting, recertifying, refinishing and correctly storing your fiberglass, make sure you are working safely in the field. User error and skipping safe work practices, even with working equipment, can cause injury and even death. Always familiarize yourself with your company’s Safe Work Practices. This step by step guide will walk you through the completion of each job safely and efficiently. Other steps, such as maintaining a safe working distance from electrical lines based on the line’s voltage, will also keep you out of harm’s way.

In the flash of an eye, electricity will surprise you, so be prepared with having safe and fully functioning equipment. Keep to these simple steps to prolong the life of the equipment and save the company money in the long run. Most importantly, you will also be protecting the most important and valuable investment in the field- you and your crew!