Laser Safety Practices

The following measures are recommended as a guide to safe laser use.  Some additional measures may be required for specific laser classes and lasers that emit invisible radiation.  See ANSI Z136.1 for more details, or contact EHS at 5-8501 for additional information.

Work Area Safety Practices

  • A laser should be isolated from public areas.  Doors should be closed or locked to keep out unauthorized personnel.  The proper warning signs should be posted.
  • The illumination in the area should be as bright as practicable in order to constrict the eye pupils of users.
  • The laser should be set up so that the beam path is above or below normal eye level (below 4.5 ft. or above 6.5 ft.).
  • Where practical, the laser system or beam should be enclosed to prevent accidental exposure to the beam.
  • The potential for specular reflections should be minimized by shields and by removal of all unnecessary shiny surfaces.
  • Windows to hallways or other outside areas must be provided with adequate shades or covers when necessary to keep the Nominal Hazard Zone (NHZ) within the room.
  • The main beams and reflected beams should be terminated or dumped.  This is required for any accessible laser for which the MPE limit could be exceeded. 
  • Electrical installation must meet electrical safety standards.  The active laser never should be left unattended unless it is a part of the controlled environment.
  • Warning devices must be installed for lasers with invisible beams to warn of operation.
  • The laser work area should be maintained as free of clutter as possible, to minimize the chance of accidentally igniting something.
  • Ensuring that lasers are well secured to the work surface helps prevent a stray beam.

Laser Use Safety Practices

  • Avoid looking into the primary beam at all times.
  • Do not aim the laser with the eye; direct reflections could cause retinal damage.
  • Avoid looking at the pump source.
  • Clear all personnel from the anticipated path of the beam.
  • Before operating the laser, warn all personnel and visitors of the potential hazard, and ensure all safety measures are satisfied.
  • Be very cautious around lasers that operate at frequencies not visible to the human eye.
  • Do not wear bright, reflective jewelry or other objects.
  • Use proper eye protection when working with a Class 3B or Class 4 laser.  Remember that safety glasses provide no protection unless they are worn.  Safety glass lenses may shatter or melt when the lens specifications are exceeded.  Scratched or pitted lenses may afford no protection.  Frequent inspection of protective eyewear is recommended.  Eye protection is specific for the type of laser and may not protect at different frequencies or powers.  See Personal Protective Equipment for more details.