Laser Safety in the Laboratory
This course on laser safety in the lab explains the hazards and protective measures associated with the operation of lasers. The main objective of this session is to protect lab workers from being exposed to laser hazards. By the time the session is over, trainees will be able to:
- Identify the primary hazard classes of lasers;
- Identify hazards of operating lasers;
- Work with engineering controls that prevent exposure;
- Implement safe operating procedures;
- Select and wear appropriate personal protective equipment; and
- Report accidents and near misses.
Why “Laser Safety in the Laboratory” Matters:
Lasers can present a variety of serious hazards to workers and cause property damage. However, a laser’s greatest hazard is eye damage. Some produce such bright light that less than a second’s direct exposure can cause permanent blindness. Even lesser exposures can burn your eyes or harm your vision. Damage may not show up for 24 to 48 hours, so you can’t depend on symptoms to tell you that you’re in trouble.
Near-infrared light, which is visible light, from lasers can cause damage to the eye’s retina. Since the retina doesn’t have pain sensory nerves, you probably wouldn’t notice anything was wrong until the area around the retina is burned.
Far-infrared light, which is ultraviolet light, is mostly invisible to the viewer and can cause damage to the cornea and the eye lens.
The key points from this course include:
- The greatest hazard from lasers is the intense beam of light focused on a small area.
- Eye damage is the most common injury when using lasers. Failure to wear appropriate eyewear can cause permanent damage or blindness.
- Engineering controls are the most effective means of protection against all hazards. It is extremely important to check and ensure that all engineering controls are in place and working properly.
- Administrative procedures are used to back up or supplement engineering controls. They include cautionary signs, labels, and emergency shutdown procedures.
- Personal protective equipment (PPE), especially eyewear, must be used to protect you when engineering and administrative controls aren’t enough to completely eliminate laser hazards.
- Always report accidents or near misses with lasers. Sometimes damage to the eyes from laser exposure may not show up immediately.