The University of Iowa Laser Safety Program is designed to provide guidance for the safe use of lasers in research and to help provide for the safety of all personnel and visitors that may be exposed to the radiation emitted by lasers.

The laser safety policy is based on standards promulgated by ANSI Z136.1, and applies to all lasers and laser systems, whether purchased, borrowed, fabricated, or brought in for use by others.

Many lasers are capable of causing eye injury to anyone who looks directly into the beam.  Reflections alone from high-power laser beams can produce permanent eye damage.  High-power laser beams can also burn exposed skin.  Laser operators must be aware of other potential dangers such as fire, electrical, biological and chemical hazards.

This manual will provide basic information on laser operation and safety practices, as well as University policy regarding the safe use of lasers and laser systems.  Beam hazards are discussed in the body of the text and non-beam or associated hazards are discussed in Appendix 1.


All Class 3B and Class 4 lasers at the University of Iowa must be registered with the Environmental Health & Safety (EHS).  Please contact the Environmental Health & Safety at 335-8501 prior to receiving a laser so that the unit can be registered and the work area, procedures, and safety-related equipment can be evaluated prior to use of the laser.  

Responsible Parties

Laser Safety Officer

The Laser Safety Officer will be responsible for:

  • Maintaining inventory of all Class 3B and Class 4 lasers and verifying classification if necessary.
  • Reviewing standard operating procedures, alignment procedures and other control measures, before initial use. 
  • Periodically inspect Class 3B and Class 4 lasers to assess compliance with safety requirements. 
  • Providing assistance in evaluating and controlling hazards.
  • Maintaining records of Class 3B and Class 4 laser inspections. 
  • Participating in accident investigations involving lasers.
  • Suspending, restricting or terminating the operation of a laser or laser system without adequate hazard controls.

Laser Operator

The laser operator is responsible for:

  • Completing all applicable requirements including training and medical surveillance, as applicable, before operating a laser.
  • Operating lasers safely and in a manner consistent with safe laser practices, requirements and standard operating procedures.  This includes the use of personal protective equipment as applicable.
  • Maintaining a safe environment/area during the operation of a laser.

Principal Investigator

The Principal Investigator is responsible for:

  • Notifying EHS of the intent to procure a laser, and providing required information for registration and safety reviews for lasers.
  • Providing laser specific training for all operators.
  • Ensuring each assigned laser is operated safely and in accordance with applicable requirements.
  • Providing medical surveillance for laser operators and ancillary personnel as described in Medical Surveillance and Exposure Incidents, as applicable. 
  • Ensuring that each laser is stored securely and safely when not in use so that it is not usable by unauthorized personnel or under unauthorized conditions.
  • Maintaining written SOPs for Class 3B (if required) and all Class 4 lasers and ensuring laser use is commensurate with the requirements of the SOP.
  • Informing the EHS prior to receiving a laser, transferring a laser to another user, sending a laser to another site off-campus, or disposal of a laser or laser system.
  • Reporting any known or suspected accidents to the Laser Safety Officer.
  • Ensuring that a hazard assessment for personal protective equipment (PPE) use and specific PPE training is provided for all laser users for whom PPE will be required.