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General laser guidelines

​Lower power laser safeguards

Lower power lasers are Class 1, 2, and 3a 
Non-Pulsed Visible lasers of output power 1.0 milliwatt and lower are exempt from all control measures but require: 

  1. A laser warning label on the device.
  2. Protective eyewear for clients and staff as specified by the manufacturer.
Visible lasers of output power greater than 1.0 milliwatt but less than 5.0 milliwatts require:
  1. A laser warning label on the device.
  2. Protective eyewear for clients and staff as specified by the manufacturer.
  3. A laser warning sign in the area of use. 

Higher power laser safeguards

Higher power health care and industrial lasers, i.e. classes 3b and 4 must be used in a controlled area under the supervision of a trained laser safety officer (LSO). Below are some general guidelines for controlled areas:

  • Seventy percent (70%) of all laser accidents have been related to not wearing protective eyewear, wearing inappropriate eyewear and wearing damaged protective eyewear while using high power lasers! Laser eye protection is required.
  • Only authorized personnel must occupy this area. All personnel, who regularly require entry into this controlled area must have adequate training, follow all applicable procedural controls and be provided with protective equipment for eyes and skin.
  • The area must have an appropriate warning sign.
  • Any windows, doorways, openings, etc. must be either covered or restricted in such a manner as to reduce laser radiation to below MPE levels.
  • Entryways are required to be interlocked with non-defeatable safety controls unless the laser levels are below the MPE at the entryway, but must allow rapid egress by laser personnel at all times.
  • If exposure of any unprotected personnel (including clients and staff) to the primary or specularly reflected beam is possible the laser owner/operator must make a determination of the irradiance or radiant exposure for the primary or specularly reflected beam at that specific location. The irradiance or radiant exposure must not exceed the MPE levels of ANSI Z136.1-2000.
  • In Class 4 medical laser operations the vaporization of target tissue often produces noxious airborne contaminants that can cause lacrimation, nausea, abdominal cramping and vomiting. Such airborne contaminants should be captured as near as practical to the point of creation and removed by localized exhaust ventilation. An alternative is the use of a portable smoke extractor using charcoal and/or HEPA type filters. See Control of Smoke From Laser/Electric Surgical Procedures at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Laser standards

In British Columbia, WorkSafeBC (WSBC) Occupational Health and Safety Regulation limits exposure to laser radiation. The standards below are acceptable to the WSBC in reference to exposure limitation:

  • American National Standard for Safe Use of Lasers, ANSI Z136.1
  • American National Standard for Safe Use of Optical Fiber Communications Systems Utilizing Laser Diode and LED Sources, ANSI Z136.2
  • American National Standard for Safe Use of Lasers in Health Care Facilities, ANSI Z136.3
  • American National Standard for Safe Use of Lasers in Educational Institutions, ANSI Z136.5

These standards may be purchased from the publisher through Rockwell Laser Industries Inc or Laser Institute of America.  A brief version of laser TLVs can be found in the current ACGIH TLVs and BEIs, available from American Conference of Governmental and Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH).

SOURCE: General laser guidelines ( )
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