Lasers: What's new?

Updated Laser Requirements

For those of you who work with or around lasers, the Laser Institute of America (LIA) has published an updated ANSI document, ANSI Z136.1-2007, American National Standard for Safe Use of Lasers. These standards are effective immediately. The Laser Safety Program now has expanded and more clearly defined duties and responsibilities of the Laser Safety Officer (LSO), Laser Safety Committee (LSC), and personnel responsibilities for employees and supervisors. A summary of specific changes follows.

  • Hazard Evaluations: A greater emphasis has been placed on parameters such as access to beam path, attended vs. unattended operation, focused beams, telescopic viewing conditions, and photochemical hazards.
  • Classifications: The former classification of lasers (1, 2, 3a, 3b, and 4) has been modified to incorporate magnification factors and to fall in line with the International European Community (IEC) Standards. The new classifications are: 1, 1M, 2, 2M, 3R, 3B, and 4.
  • Control Measures: Control measures have been both strengthened and relaxed, depending on the specific requirement. These changes include, but are not limited to:
    • Laser pointers,
    • Enclosures and protective housing,
    • Master switches and interlocks,
    • Use of lasers in navigable air space,
    • Standard operating procedures (SOPs),
    • Demonstrations in the general public,
    • Optical fiber transmission systems,
    • Labeling of protective equipment ( e.g., eyewear, windows and barriers, viewports and films, collecting optics filters, etc), and
    • Area warning signs and laser system labeling.
  • Education and Training: Requirements have been substantially modified. Training topics must include the previously required topics, but now must additionally include warnings against the misuse of lasers and hazard information for applicable non-beam hazards. Personnel who are required to complete the training not only include operators of Class 3B or 4 lasers (which also include the Laser Principal Investigator), but also any person that may be exposed to Class 3B or 4 laser radiation ( e.g., students or personnel working within the nominal hazard zone that do not operate the laser systems).
  • Medical Surveillance: Medical surveillance is no longer required, but still recommended for personnel prior to working with Class 3B or 4 lasers. However, medical evaluations are still required following a suspected or known eye exposure as soon as possible and not to exceed 48 hours following exposure.
  • Non-beam Hazards: Non-beam hazards were re-grouped as physical, chemical, or biological agents and other factors.
    • The physical agents section expands on electrical hazards and recommendations, collateral radiation and photosensitizing agents from industrial chemicals and prescription medications, ozone issues associated with UV lasers in the shorter wavelengths, and radio-frequency (RF) concerns.
    • The chemical agents section consists of new or expanded information on compressed gases, laser dyes and solvents, control measures, and sensors/alarms.
    • Biological issues are discussed, as well as other factors that may be considered in laser safety evaluations ( e.g., ergonomics, limited work space, and employee work patterns)

More detailed information regarding theses changes have been incorporated into the Laser Safety Training given by the Laser Safety Officer. The Laser Safety Committee at Purdue is in the process of determining how to implement the regulatory changes in Purdue's Laser Safety Program. If you are interested in more specific information than what is mentioned in this article, you may contact Zach Tribbitt.