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Laser Safety

Laser safety is the safe design, use, and implementation of lasers to minimize the risk of accidents, especially those involving eye injuries.

Because even relatively small amounts of laser light can lead to permanent eye injuries, the sale and use of lasers are typically subject to government regulations.

Moderate and high-powered lasers are potentially hazardous because they can burn the retina, and/or the skin. To control the risk of injury, various specifications define "classes" of lasers depending on their power and wavelength.

These regulations also prescribe required safety measures, such as labeling lasers with specific warnings and wearing laser safety goggles when operating lasers.

If your work requires use of lasers...

  1. Laser-producing equipment requires both registration and tracking of equipment movement. All orders placed for laser-producing equipment and machines require approval from the laser safety officer (LSO) before further processing by the purchasing department.
  2. Upon approval of the order, a laser use registration (LUR) form must be completed and submitted to the LSO. Each lab planning to build its own lasers for use in research is also required to complete and submit a LUR form. Note that the LUR must be renewed every year, regardless of whether any changes have been made. You can renew your LUR with our renewal form. In addition, the movement of the equipment and/or changes in the operational status of the equipment must be documented in the LUR.
  3. The LSO will process the LUR and provide a specific assessment of the hazards, recommended safety precautions, and modifications to protect lab personnel working with and around laser-producing equipment.
  4. All labs using lasers are required to have a copy of the Laser Safety Manual (LSM) in the lab and must meet the minimum requirements outlined by the LSO. Minimum requirements may include specialized eye protection, door and window coverings, signage, and protective shields.
  5. Each principal investigator (PI) should develop a standard operating procedure (SOP) for use of laser-producing equipment in his or her lab. The online RADiCAL tool, although currently designed for the development of chemical SOPs, can be used for this purpose. To develop an SOP for use of lasers, a chemical must first be selected (e.g. alcohol used for cleaning lenses, or simply water) to initiate the development of an SOP. Any questions regarding the development of SOPs for laser use, contact the LSO.
  6. Each individual working with lasers, or who may potentially be exposed, must be enrolled in the Laboratory Hazard Assessment Tool (LHAT) by the PI to identify personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary for work with lasers. Note that additional PPE may be required on a case-by-case basis, and this equipment must be purchased at the expense of the PI.
  7. Proper signage must be posted in a safe and easily visible location warning of potential dangers. This includes signage to indicate when a laser is in use and/or recommendations for PPE required before entering an area where lasers are used.

Safe operation of lasers:

  1. Guidelines for the safe use of lasers vary depending not only on the laser classification (1 through 4) but also on the individual properties of the laser, including operating mode (continuous vs. pulsed), power or energy, exposure duration, diameter, and divergence. With a wide variety of lasers available, the specifications for each laser must be accurately represented on the LUR to allow an accurate assessment of the maximum permissible exposure (MPE) limits and determination of the nominal hazard zone (NHZ). All personnel working with lasers should know their laser-producing machine's MPE and NHZ.
  2. All laser users, and any lab personnel who may be exposed to lasers while they are in use, must complete appropriate training conducted by the LSO of EH&S. Registration for laser safety training can be completed by accessing the UC Learning Center (UCLC). Note that laser safety training must be renewed every three years.
  3. PPE rated for the specific laser-producing equipment must be used in accordance with the guidelines in the Laser Safety Manual.