SEC-011: Laser Safety

Date: 08/01/2005 Status: Final
Last Revised: 04/20/2018
Policy Type: University
Oversight Executive: Vice President for Research
Applies To:

Academic Division and the College at Wise.

Reason for Policy:

The University has established requirements to protect faculty, staff and students from exposure of the eye and skin to hazardous levels of laser radiation and to other hazards associated with the operation of laser devices during operation and maintenance. It is the responsibility of the Office of Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) to plan and promulgate a program, which accomplishes these goals by application of the procedures defined below.

Definition of Terms in Statement:
  • Class 1M Laser:

    Considered to be incapable of producing hazardous exposure conditions during normal operation unless the beam is viewed with collecting optics (e.g., telescope, microscope) and is exempt from any control measures other than to prevent potentially hazardous optically aided viewing.

  • Class 2M Laser:

    Emits in the visible portion of the spectrum [400-700 nanometer (nm)] and eye protection is normally afforded by the aversion response for unaided viewing. However, Class 2M is potentially hazardous if viewed with collection optics (e.g., telescope, microscope).

  • Class 3 Laser:

    Has two subclasses, 3R and 3B that may be hazardous under direct and specular reflection viewing conditions, but diffuse reflection is usually not a hazard. Normally not a fire hazard. Specific controls are recommended for Class 3B lasers.

  • Class 4 Laser:

    A laser system that is a hazard to the eye or skin from the direct beam and sometimes from a diffuse reflection and can also be a fire hazard. Significant controls are required.

  • Maximum Permissible Exposure (MPE):

    The level of laser radiation to which a person may be exposed without hazardous effect or adverse biological changes in the eye or skin.

  • Nominal Hazard Zone (NHZ):

    The nominal hazard zone describes the space within which the level of the direct, reflected or scattered radiation during operation exceeds the applicable MPE. Exposure levels beyond the boundary of the NHZ are below the applicable MPE level.

Policy Statement:

The local designee in each location in the University where non-ionizing radiation in the form of lasers (classified as 1M, 2M, 3B and 4) is utilized will review such usage and establish appropriate safety and health procedures. These procedures must address the usage and condition of lasers for research and academic use and the health exposures of those who use them.

All departments that purchase and utilize class 1M, 2M, 3B and 4 lasers must register them with the University Laser Safety Officer (LSO). Whenever deliberate modifications are made which could change a laser or laser system’s class and affect its output power or operating characteristics so as to make it potentially more hazardous, the LSO shall ascertain whether any changes and additional control measures are required.

The basis of this policy is the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) Standards Z136.11.

1 ANSI (American National Standards Institute) Standard for Safe Use of Lasers Z136.1.

Compliance with Policy:
Failure to comply with the requirements of this policy may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination in accordance with relevant University policies. Non-compliance with safety and health regulations may be subject to enforcement and penalties as defined by Code of Virginia § 40.1-49.4.

Questions about this policy should be directed to Environmental Health & Safety.

  1. The local designee shall prepare a laser safety manual for each laser system and review it annually. All personnel authorized to operate the laser system shall sign the manual and submit it to the University Laser Safety Officer. There is an existing web site accessible through the Environmental Health & Safety home page, which is to be used for this purpose. The manual shall include, but not be limited to, the following:

    • Authorization and signature page;
    • Description of the laser system and facilities with a floor diagram;
    • Technical specifications of the laser system;
    • Standard operating procedures that cover laser beam and non-beam hazards; and
    • Emergency contact information and procedures.
  2. Only properly trained personnel will operate laser equipment. Education and training must be documented and updated annually. Training programs shall provide a thorough understanding of all procedures required for establishing and maintaining a safe environment during the use of the laser system. Training should be specific to the laser system in use.

  3. Within the Nominal Hazard Zone (NHZ), which is generally the room where the laser is located, all personnel will adhere to appropriate eye protection procedures during all laser applications. Appropriate eye-wear consists of glasses or goggles of sufficient optical density to prevent ocular damage at the laser wavelength in use.

  4. All safety procedures specific to the laser system will be followed within the NHZ. These procedures will also address non-beam issues such as the electrical safety, ventilation, fire and explosion potentials.

  5. Warning signs specific to the laser in use must be in view outside the room where the laser procedure is being performed.

  6. Non-compliance or any accidents or injuries involving lasers shall be reported to the University Laser Safety Officer (3-1725) and an immediate report made to WorkMed (employees) and/or Student Health (students).

  7. It is the responsibility of the University Laser Safety Officer and the local designee to monitor the compliance of the procedures established for the use of these devices.

Major Category: Safety, Security and Environmental Quality
Next Scheduled Review: 04/20/2021
Approved by, Date: Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, 08/01/2005
Revision History: Added Compliance Section 2/26/20; Updated 4/20/18; 11/3/11, 8/25/08.