Managing Risks Associated with Lasers

5 November 2018

Laser Beam Warning Sign Laser users should be aware of the risks involved with their equipment. Not all lasers present the same hazards. Proper understanding and training of the particular laser being used, and its dangers, is necessary to avoid injury.

Lasers with visible beams are categorized into four classes.

Class 2
These relatively weak lasers are not a skin or burn hazard. They do not cause eye damage unless someone stares directly at the beam.

Class 3R
These low powered lasers are not a skin or burn hazard. Laser protective eyewear is generally not necessary.

Class 3B
These lasers are not a skin or burn hazard. Laser protective eyewear appropriate for the beam’s power and wavelength is recommended.

Class 4
These lasers can burn skin and cause permanent scarring. Some types of material will burn. Laser protective eyewear is essential.
Infrared lasers, used commonly in industrial settings, pose invisible risks to the user. The eyes cannot detect infrared, so they must always be protected from exposure.

Federal Codes of Regulation (CFR) in the US and IEC codes internationally define laser classes and impose required safety regulations. They mandate manufacturer warning labels and outline specific safety measures for laser operators. American National Standards Institute (ANSI) provides control measures for laser hazards in the US. For example, ANSI Z136.3 provides guidance for the safe use of lasers in health care. ANSI Z136.9 provides standard policies of safe use of lasers in manufacturing environments. EN is the European standard.

Certified Laser Safety Officers (CLSO) ensure that compliance with all standards are being met. They can recommend appropriate laser safety eyewear and signage that warns that lasers are in use. Window coverings, such as laser shades, blinds, or shutters must be in place to prevent laser radiation from escaping through the glass.

RT Technologies can provide CLSOs for consulting services and laser safety auditing. We also offer customized laser safety training courses. RT Technologies offers accredited testing for all laser products and provides US and international laser product certification and registration services.