Introduction and Regulatory Requirements

The Radiation Safety Division of EHS is in the process of developing a laser safety program in order to facilitate the needs of the University. In the interim, the following can provide introductory laser safety information and laser resources.  This program should be implemented by July 1, 2000.

Lasers are categorized into six hazard classes: 1, 2, 2A, 3A, 3B, and 4 (listed from lowest to highest hazard). Most of the hazards associated with lasers are caused by Class 3B and Class 4 lasers. Class 3b are generally intermediate powers in the range of 5-500mW continuous wave, 10J/cm2 if a pulsed wave. A laser is considered Class 4 if greater than 5W continuous wave or greater than 10J/cm2 pulsed.

Some regulatory agencies involved with laser safety include the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). All laser products sold after 1976 must be certified by the manufacturer as meeting the safety standards of the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) a division of the FDA. All laser systems must bear a compliance label as well as denoting the hazard class of the laser enclosed. Please contact OS Division if any of your equipment is missing any of these labels.

The ANSI Z136 Standards have become accepted industry practice for the safe use of lasers. OSHA inspectors have used Pub.8-1.7 as a reference document during inspections, which is based on these Z136 Standards. OSHA will use the General Duty Clause if a laser-based violation exists.