Laser Safety Program

Lasers

Background

Lasers and laser systems are regulated by the Texas Department of State Health Services – Bureau of Radiation Control. To comply with this code, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) has established a Laser Safety Program administered by the Department of Environmental Health, Safety and Risk Management (EHSRM). The Laser Safety Program mission is to assist in maintaining safe and healthy settings for research and clinical activities and oversees the use of lasers in the UTRGV environment. The program fulfills this mission by providing consulting services to the laser users, performing routine laboratory inspections, providing personnel, area and environmental monitoring, and responding to emergency situations. Please feel free to contact us if we may be of assistance or if you have any safety concerns.

This program is established to meet the requirements of 25 Texas Administrative Code 289.301 and prudent safety practice. If any conflict occurs between this program and the code, the latter shall prevail. Additional guidance documents are available from ANSI (American National Standards Institute):

  • Safe Use of Lasers (Z136.1)
  • Safe Use of Optical Fiber Communication Systems Utilizing Laser Diode and LED Sources (Z136.2)
  • Safe Use of Lasers in Educational Institutions (Z136.5)

Internal Registration

  1. Each Class 3b and Class 4 laser in the possession of the university, regardless of the actual owner of the laser, must be registered with UTRGV Department of Environmental Health, Safety and Risk Management.
  2. The laser class is typically determined by the laser manufacturer and can be found on a label on the laser. If the laser is missing the label or it is “homemade,” contact EHSRM to determine the classification.
  3. Multiple lasers may be registered to a single Permittee. However, a single laser may not be registered to multiple Permittees. If a laser is to be transferred to another UTRGV Permittee (or another institution), inform EHSRM of the change.
  4. Class 3b and Class 4 lasers that are an integral part of a product that is classified as a Class 1, Class 2, or Class 3a laser product do not need to be registered.

Instructions

  1. Complete a Laser Device Registration to the EHSRM.
  2. The EHSRM will then notify the Principal Investigator to determine if the necessary controls are in place in order to meet the applicable standards.
  3. All individuals using the laser must attend Laser Safety Training prior to the use of the laser. 
  4. Minors are prohibited from working with Class IIIB and Class IV lasers that are unprotected. 
  5. Contact EHSRM before sending any laser (all classes) to Surplus Property or transferring the laser to another Principal Investigator.

Standard Operating Procedures

It is strongly recommended that users prepare a written Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the use of the laser to ensure that all personnel are thoroughly familiar with the use of the laser. It should include, at a minimum, the following information:

  • A statement that Class 3B and 4 lasers may only be operated, maintained, and serviced by authorized personnel or by the manufacturer’s representative
  • Emergency call list
  • Description of safety features
  • Description of protective equipment laser operators must use
  • Specific operating procedures, from start-up to shut-down
  • Specific alignment procedures
  • Safety checklist, either provided with the equipment or developed by the PI
  • Emergency instructions
  • Keep the SOP near the laser, readily available for use by operators and service personnel.
  • Survey the workplace periodically to ensure compliance with your SOP and laser safety requirements.

Personal Protective Equipment

All users of class III and Class IV lasers are required to use the appropriate personal protective equipment. The Laser safety Officer is available to assist PIs with hazard calculations and fit for correct eyewear as required for laser use approval.

  • Eyewear: Laser safety eyewear is required in the presence of class 3B and 4 lasers. The eyewear must provide sufficient protection for the user.

When selecting eyewear, consider:

  • Wavelength of laser output
  • Potential for multi-wavelength operation
  • Optical density
  • Visible light transmission
  • Femto second rated, if applicable
  • Peripheral vision
  • Need for prescription glasses
  • Degradation of absorbing media, such as photo-bleaching
  • Capacity of the front surface to produce specular reflection
  • Radiant exposure or irradiance and the corresponding time factors at which laser protective eyewear damage occurs, including transient bleaching
  • Strength and shock-resistance of materials
  • Comfort and fit
Ensure laser protective eyewear is clearly labeled with the optical density values and wavelengths for which the equipment is intended.
Inspect eyewear regularly for lens pitting and cracking that could compromise its ability to protect the wearer. Inspect the frame for mechanical integrity and light leaks.
  • Skin protection: Skin protection is required if personnel are likely to be chronically exposed to scattered ultraviolet light (UV), such as during excimer laser applications, or acutely exposed to levels greater that the maximum permissible exposure (MPE) limit for skin.
    o Important: Laser light can be attenuated by layered clothing. However, the nylon-based material used for many lab coats has a transmission level of 20% to 40%, and is not appropriate as personal protective equipment.
    • Use leather gloves, aprons, and jackets for protection against UV exposure.
    • Wear fire-resistant materials and UV protection for work with class 4 lasers.

Other personal protective equipment may be required when engineering controls are insufficient. This may include:

  • Respirators
  • Hearing protection

Training

Laser safety training is mandated for all personnel prior to working with class III and class IV lasers. Awareness training is provided for those who share a research laboratory with a Principal Investigators (PIs) conducting research with lasers. Training can be arranged by contacting the UTRGV representative.

All personnel using laser are required to have specific training in the use of the laser in accordance with written Standard Operating Procedures.

Laser Program Documents

Forms 


UTRGV Program Representative

Dr. Richard Costello
Director, Environmental Health Safety and Risk Management 
Laser Safety Officer
EEHSB 1110
956-665-2903
Richard.Costello@utrgv.edu

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