Laser safety in the workplace minimizes the risk of eye injuries. Hear about the 7 laser classes, and the precautions required for each.
Lasers are common in a worker’s everyday life, on the job and at home. Many lasers are harmless. Some are very dangerous. Dan Clark reviews the classes of lasers, and explains the hazards of each.
The classes reviewed are 1; 1M; 2; 2M; 3R; 3B; and 4, established in 2002 and referred to in the ANSI Z136 standard.
Also discussed are specific workplace warning signs for laser safety.
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Dan Clark: Lasers. Loved by pranksters at movie theaters. But some can be more dangerous than looking at the sun. Listen how to protect workers’ eyes.
Hello, I’m Dan Clark of The Safety Brief, tackling health and safety hazards in today’s demanding industrial and construction worksites.
Lasers have so many applications. CD players, grocery store barcode readers, in surveying, in hospitals. In industrial workplaces, lasers are used for welding and cutting.
Lasers have specific colors and wavelengths, and, depending on the power, some visible and infrared wavelengths can hurt the eyes. To avoid eye injury let’s look at the internationally recognized classes of lasers.
• CLASS 1 – used in DVD and CD players and laser printers. There’s no danger in these, and no safety requirement.
• CLASS 1M – is dangerous only if viewed with a magnifying device. An example of this type of laser is used for fiber-optic communication.
• CLASS 2M – this, again, is only dangerous if looked at through magnification, like binoculars, or for an extended period. Civil engineering instruments used for leveling and orientation are examples.
• CLASS 3R – this can cause spot blindness and other eye injuries, though the risk is still low. Examples of 3R lasers are higher powered laser pointers, and some home improvement alignment products.
• CLASS 3B – this can cause eye injury from the direct beam, or reflections. They’re used in some entertainment light shows—rock concerts—spectrometry and stereolithography. Class 3B is too powerful for a pointer, but beware. Incorrectly labeled laser pointers are out there in the wild, wild, West known as the Internet. Some pointers are incorrectly marked as Class 2, but are actually Class 3B. They are extremely dangerous and not suitable for sale to the public. Some of these high power laser pointers with power up to hundreds of milliwatts emit a green beam, so beware.
• CLASS 4 – these are the most powerful and they can burn the eyes and skin or cause fires, even when the beam is reflected first off another object. They’re used in research, surgery, welding, drilling, cutting and micro-machining.
Workplaces should enclose lasers or use systems that allow workers to operate lasers remotely.
Proper eye protection that can protect eyes from the wavelengths present is required. This protection is called optical density.
A workplace should have posted labels so workers can understand the level of the hazard present:
• CAUTION signs are used with Class 2; 2M; and 3R lasers.
• WARNING signs are used with Class 3B lasers.
• DANGER signs are used for the final class, Class 4 lasers.
That’s all for this episode on 7 Levels Of Laser Safety. Come back for more ways to stay safety compliant in today’s ever-changing landscape of safety requirements. I’m Dan Clark of The Safety Brief, a service of Creative Safety Supply. Save 10% off your entire order at creativesafetysupply.com with coupon code SAFETYBRIEF.
blue laser image by the U.S. Air Force; multi laser image © ℗ 2015 彭家杰; laser pointer and bar code scanner by Pixabay/OpenClips