Laser Safety

Laser Safety Program is intended to reduce the risk of injuries associated with the use of lasers by establishing procedures for working with lasers. Below is the basic syllabus for laser use. Questions regarding the Laser Safety Program should be directed to Environmental Health & Safety at 619-594-6778.

Do’s and Don’ts

  • Never look into the beam. If intrabeam viewing is required, use remote viewing aids.
  • Always use the lowest power practical.
  • Do not sit in a position that puts your eyes on the same plane as the laser light.
  • Always use beam stops.
  • Be cognizant of non-beam hazards (e.g., high voltage power supplies, hazardous chemicals).
  • Always use appropriate protective equipment (see eyewear section below).

Training

Persons operating lasers classified as 3B or 4 are required to have instruction in laser safety. The instruction should include information on the nature of laser emissions, how lasers are classified by relative hazard, administrative and engineering controls, protective equipment, non-beam hazards and accident reporting. Viewing the videotape on laser safety available through Environmental Health & Safety fulfills the training requirement. The videotape is 30 minutes in length and should be scheduled for viewing by your professor.

Eyewear

While operating lasers classified as 3B or 4, protective eyewear must be worn by all persons in the lab when there is a potential for the beam to be scattered or deflected in the direction of any person. Most commonly this situation would be during alignments. The eyewear must be appropriate for the power and wavelength(s) being generated and must indicate so on the eyewear. Some eyewear is designed to offer protection for diffuse viewing only, that allows personnel to see the visible beam, and should not be presumed to offer total attenuation for intrabeam exposure.

Medical Surveillance

Persons operating lasers classified as 3B or 4 must participate in the medical surveillance program. The exam is given at Student Health Services and takes approximately 30-40 minutes. An ocular history is requested of each student. The exam primarily tests visual acuity and verifies whether previous retinal damage has occurred. If the student wears prescription glasses, it would be helpful if the student would bring a copy of the current corrective prescription with them. Appointments can be scheduled by calling 619-594-4736. The student should request the “Laser Screening Exam.” Everyone should have the exam performed prior to using lasers.

Accident Reporting

It is important that all injuries are reported. If you suspect that you or another person has been injured, report it immediately to your professor and to Environmental Health & Safety, extension 4-6879. There is never any punitive action for reporting an accident.

Injury to Personnel

Immediately call 911 for assistance. Notify the PI or any supervisory personnel in the area. If possible, secure the laser involved in the injury. If the nature of the injury can be confidently reduced in severity by administering available first aid or other measures, proceed until relieved by emergency responders.

Hazardous Material Spills

In the event that hazardous material is spilled, isolate the spill if possible. Contact EH&S at extension 4-6778 and describe the nature of the incident. If outside of normal business hours call 911. If possible secure any laser in operation. Evacuate the lab and await responders.

Fire

Shut down the laser if possible. Announce to any persons in the area that a fire has occurred. If you are aware of the appropriate fire extinguisher location and have been trained to use it, you may elect to combat small fires. Before proceeding with fire suppression, make sure that you have a clear evacuation route constantly accessible behind you. If you feel any effects from the fire due to heat, smoke or fumes, do not fight the fire. Evacuate the area immediately and call 911 from any available phone. Call 911 and report the fire in all cases. Even if you believe the fire to be out, the source of ignition should be investigated by Public Safety or the Campus Fire Marshal.

Eye Hazards

Retinal burns and other retinal damage are most likely to result from exposure to laser light in the visible and near-infrared regions (400-1400 nm). Corneal effects such as photokeratitis or welders flash may occur from exposure to laser light in the mid-infrared, far-infrared and middle ultra-violet ranges (1400nm-1 mm, and 180-315 nm). Cataracts or clouding of the lens of the eye may occur from exposure to laser light in the near-ultraviolet region (315-390 nm).


Skin Hazards

The damaging effects to the skin is principally erythema or sunburn. Damage to the skin may occur from exposure to laser light in the range of 230-380 nm. The most severe effects to the skin occur from exposure to laser light in the UV-B region (280-315 nm).

Electrical Hazards

The most serious hazard from the operation of high powered lasers is the possibility of electrical shock. The operator must be cognizant of those areas where high voltage is present. Optimally, access to high voltage electricity should be physically restricted wherever possible. Visual inspections should be performed by laser users to check for appropriate insulation of high voltage contacts.


Chemical Hazards

Some lasers use chemical dyes and solvents. A copy of the safety data sheet (SDS) should be available for reference by laboratory personnel. If hazardous chemicals come into contact with your skin or eyes, flush immediately with water and call 911 for assistance.