Laser Safety Issues

  • Posted on May 4, 2018

Lasers have so many amazing applications. They can both cut through the hardest steel and the most delicate human eye tissues. They provide so many benefits yet can be so dangerous.
Lasers first came into being in the 1960’s. They are used for 3D imaging, making pinpoint accurate measurements, in medicine and by the military. Consequently, laser related injuries have been on the rise. The severity of any injury is related to the energy or power density of the beam and the absorption rate and length of exposure to the tissue. Unfortunately, there has also been a significant increase in injuries and the potential for catastrophic accidents related to misguided use of laser pointers in airline cockpits. Laser safety awareness is essential to increase public awareness of the hazards these pranks create.
Although there are no U.S. mandatory laser safety protocols, the ANSI has created the Z136 standards for laser safety, and OSHA bases its guidance on these standards. Awareness and training, particularly in specific laser applications, is crucial. The exponential growth in the number of laser applications and their importance is unquestionably one of the key drivers in the US and world economies. Employment in this field is expected to experience continued robust growth and offers high starting salaries.
Responsible laser safety awareness is the key to ensuring a safe workplace.
Why Class IIIa Laser Pointers Are Dangerous for Airline Pilots
The FBI has been raising awareness of and offering rewards for people suspected of pointing laser pointers into airline cockpits during takeoff and landing. In fact, “Since the FBI began tracking laser strikes in 2005, statistics reflect a more than 1,100 percent increase nationwide in the deliberate targeting of aircraft by people with hand-held lasers. “ From January 1, 2004 through December 31, 2014, there were more than 21,500 laser/aircraft incidents reported by the FAA. http://www.laserpointersafety.com/historical.html

For Employers

OSHA has an easy tool for assessing PPE for use in the workplace at www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/eyeandface/ppe/light_radiation.html#Lens Requirements. In addition to PPE, lasers and workspaces must be properly labeled to warn of the type of potential hazards and how to avoid them. If you work with lasers, these labels and placards are commonplace but don’t take them for granted.
For class 3 and 4 laser workplaces, a Laser Safety Officer (LSO) is required. The LSO educates and trains each employee in the proper use of PPE such as:
• When, what type and limitations of PPE
• How to put on and remove PPE
• Care, maintenance and disposal of PPE
• How to respond to an emergency
• Written certification and acknowledgement of the training by the employee

Employers are subject to fines if unable to prove they provide adequate laser safety training. Here are some tips to help you survive an OSHA inspection:

• Have laser safety policies, rules and procedures in place and demonstrate that they are easily accessible by employees.
• Be able to provide the location, class and use of every laser in your facility.
• Provide a list of personal protection equipment (PPE) required for the lasers your employees are using and demonstrate compliance.
• Keep detailed training records at your fingertips.
• Have a laser accident response plan and show that your LSO is prepared for rapid response.
• Ensure your lasers are properly labeled according to federal standards.
• Require your employees obtain a laser safety certificate.

Requiring that each of your employees become laser safety certified should be a key part of your laser safety program. It’s easy…Get started today.

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