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Laser Safety – Classes, Risks And Laser Safety Precautions

Laser safety enhances the safe use of laser device in order to prevent or minimize the hazards which accompanies the laser device. It is understood that even a small amount of laser can result to permanent eye injury and to a lesser extent the skin base on the class.

What is Laser? 

Laser is a device which generates the laser beam. The laser beam is an intense beam of coherent monochromatic light. This beam is used in drilling and cutting, alignment and guidance, in surgery, etc.


Some Regulations Governing The Use Of Laser

The use of laser is strictly regulated by certain regulations like 21 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 1040 in the US, International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), documents 60601, 60825, and 60825-Part 8,  AS/NZ 2211(Laser Safety), and the 4173, (Guide to the Safe Use of Lasers in Healthcare) in Australia, etc.


How Can I Be Exposed To Laser

You can be exposed by;

  • Direct viewing of the beam
  • Specular reflection – from a shiny surface
  • Diffuse reflection – from an irregular surface


Classes of Laser

To ensure laser  safety, the classes should be understood and their damaging effects.

Based of laser damaging effect, lasers are classified into seven (7) classes:

  1. Class 1:  It is safe under all conditions of normal use.
  2.  Class 1M: They are not capable of producing hazardous exposure conditions during normal operation, except when the beam is viewed with an optical instrument.
  3.  Class 2: This type of laser is relatively safe. It could only cause injury to the eye if the blink reflex is intentionally suppressed.
  4.  Class 2M: This type of laser is relatively safe.
  5.  Class 3R: This is only considered safe when handled carefully.
  6.  Class 3B: Considered hazardous when viewed directly. Eye protection is recommended where direct viewing is necessary.
  7.  Class 4: The direct beam is hazardous to the eye and skin.


Laser Safety Measures 

From the classes of laser highlighted above, you must have discovered that different classes poses different level of risk. Where some are relatively safe, others are said to be hazardous. Ensuring laser safety is strictly base of the level of risk it poses. Hence before considering a safety measure for a particular laser, you need to pay attention to the class and the risk.


General Laser Safety Procedures

To use laser in a safe manner, these control measures should be considered;

  • Engineering control: This is the inbuilt safety features supplied by the manufacturer in compliance with IEC and FDA (CDRH) standards.
  • Administrative control: This involves the organization laser safety program. This may include appointing a laser safety representative, setting up a laser safety community, stipulating training and retraining period, etc.
  • Procedural control: This is the policy, plan and procedures stipulated by the organization on the use of laser. Could involves accepted activities, tools, materials, processes, and trend of events. It will also include control of access into the laser operation site.
  • Emergency procedures: Emergency plan should be in place in-case something goes wrong while working with laser.

A laser safety plan should be written, communicated, documented and kept at the laser operation site.


Specific Control Measures For The Use Of Laser

  • Use appropriate eye protection
  • Ensure safe methods of handling high voltage – Safe system of work.
  • Prevent unprotected personnel from entering the laser area
  • Ensure new operators are trained in laser safety procedures. Also if there is a changer in the laser system or system of work, personnel should be retrained for specific hazards.
  • Laser hazard signs and posters are to be posted on laser control areas.
  • Maintenance and repair work on laser systems should be performed only by certified service personnel who have documented training for the laser system to be serviced.
  • Never look directly into a laser pointer.
  • Never direct a laser pointer at another person.
  • Use the minimum laser radiation level required for the application.

NOTE: Majorly, class 1, 1M, 2, 2M, and 3R lasers are exempted from control measures and medical surveillance because of their relatively low risk level.

Class 3B and 4 are considered hazardous to the eye and skin and requires stringent control measures when working with them.


See some very important laser safety facts here


Further reading

Occupational effect of ultraviolet ray

Substance abuse in the workplace; the way forward

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