Guide Laser Safety

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Labels on portable or outdoor lasers will include a specific warning against aiming at aircraft. Each label has a link back to this website. The link normally goes to a general page for the laser's Class, such as this Class 4 safety information page. But there are also options so that a particular laser's link goes to a dedicated, custom webpage which details the hazards of that particular laser.

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Here are examples of a custom label and its corresponding custom webpage. At this time, using Laser Safety Facts labeling is voluntary for manufacturers. More information about the Laser Safety Facts concept is here. Laser safety comprises a mixture of compliance and risk awareness. If a lab or company is using Class 3B or Class 4 lasers those with the potential to cause harm to someone or damage equipment , the compliance requirements are rather straightforward.

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Most facilities focus on these compliance items and leave risk abetment to users. To mitigate potential risk, users should:. So, what are the critical laser safety elements for both safety and compliance? Although the vast majority of LSOs work in that role only part time, someone has to bear responsibility for laser safety.

The best LSO is someone who helps come up with solutions and suggestions to assist the user in their efforts. This can include better eyewear, improved detection devices, enclosure options, etc.

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Critical responsibilities of the LSO are:. For a part-time LSO to be effective, management must be supportive and allow them the time to do their job.

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There are two types of laser safety training. From a regulatory and standards point of view, all Class 3B or Class 4 users, or those with potential exposure, need a basic awareness training. I call this institutional training. However, duration and quality of such training varies considerably. An effective training presentation needs to be customized to address laser use at the facility; a canned presentation will not suffice. The second and more critical laser safety training is a documented on-the-job training OJT or mentoring. Everyone should get an orientation to the laser systems they will be working with, as well as site-specific safety where reflections come from, what not to touch, etc.

Documenting the training with a signature of both trainer and trainee will not only protect the institution, but make everyone take the training seriously. OJT training should not have a preset timeframe and can also be augmented by ongoing mentoring. From a safety department perspective, all accidents are preventable. However, users cannot eliminate all risk.

The LSO is tasked with finding a balance between these two philosophies. In industry, laser safety is almost always engineered into the product, whereas in medicine, laser safety is dependent on a checklist system. Fabrication approaches laser safety somewhere in between these two poles. In research, such as a lab, all bets are off, because beam manipulation is the routine activity rather than a rarity, which is why beam enclosure, beam detection, beam blocks, perimeter guards, good work practices, and eyewear are so critical to reducing risk. In addition, users must be expected to follow correct work safety protocol.

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  • Each time someone peaks under their eyewear and nothing happens it just reinforces that bad practice. Anyone who sees this sort of behavior is obligated to say something. On the other hand, the LSO needs to remember that very restrictive controls will drive users to find workarounds. It is important to find the balance between safety and risk. While laser eyewear should be the last line of defense, it is the first protection people think of.

    However, as power outputs have gone up and systems have the potential to produce a wide range of wavelengths, useful eyewear becomes more of a challenge. For some systems, the reduced visibility from protective eyewear makes the system nearly unusable. Frame comfort can also be an issue, including weight, limitations on peripheral vision, and ability to wear in a cleanroom setting.

    If one needs eyewear with an optical density OD of 7 or greater, eyewear should be replaced with remote viewing or motorized mounts. In the future, the best solution will be eyewear with an opaque face plate and a smart-phone-style camera displaying the field of view either directly on the retina or on a heads-up display.

    But until technology catches up, eyewear selection will need to take into consideration items like OD, visual light transmission, fit, acuity, and lighting conditions during use. The laser standards US or IEC all call for some type of access control to keep the unapproved out of harm's way. Access control to a Class 4 use area is one of the most greatly misunderstood laser safety standards, and there are several ways to accomplish it. The first option is a nondefeatable system, meaning that whenever the entryway door is opened, the laser falls to a safe condition, via a shutter blocking the beam or powering off.

    However, no one likes this option—it's too hard on equipment and users' hearts. The next option is a defeatable interlock. Here, approved users commonly have a swipe card, key pad, secret word, or some means for them to enter without interrupting the laser system. This is the most common approach. In reality, entryway interlocks are more for management's peace of mind than protection of users, because unless the system produces ionizing radiation, interlocks do not protect the authorized users from harm. The last and broadest option for access control is an administrative approach.

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    This can be as simple as a sign common for operating rooms to an electronic lock that just keeps people out but is not connected to the laser system. These systems can also be tied to training databases, whereby permission will only be granted to those who have up-to-date training. However, this option is costly and not common.

    While warning signs are informative, we all know they become invisible over time. The purpose of the warning sign is to mark the boundary of safe from non-safe zone, termed Nominal Hazard Zone or Nominal Ocular Hazard Distance. These signs should inform people what hazards they may face going forward, including OD and wavelength, and what protection may be needed.

    What about illuminated signs? The major issue with these is that the majority are connected to the laser power supply, meaning as soon as the laser is turned on the light comes on. But just because the system is on, doesn't mean the beam is accessible and therefore harmful. The beam could be blocked, such as during a warmup period. Hence, in many cases the illuminated sign is on all the time, and they become as invisible as warning signs on the door. Despite their limitations, their operation should be part of laser safety training. Two alternatives to connecting to the power supply are to tie to a shutter or have a multi-status sign. The incorporation of flat screens into interlock systems allows visualization of not only laser status, but also active locations in the room. Another option is scroll illuminated lights, where the message moves across the face of the sign or the sign blinks. Their activity produces a greater chance of catching one's attention and being read. Every laser safety program requires a certain level of paperwork. A laser safety chapter in the Environment, Health, and Safety Manual describes the elements of the laser safety program and required forms.

    They include:.