What is a laser safety checklist?
A laser safety checklist is a document used to ensure that a workplace using lasers adheres to the safety standards put forth by the local government and other authorities such as Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
In this article, the following points are explained:
What is the science and safety of laser technology?
Unbeknownst to public knowledge, the term laser is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission Radiation. And true to this name, lasers are known to release a strong one-directional beam of light.
To produce this one-directional beam of light, lasers have three major parts:
- Optical Cavity – The component of the laser that contains and surrounds the laser and redirects the flow of photons in one direction. This is usually made of mirrors or prisms
- Laser Medium – The material used to produce optical gain when excited by the pumping system. There are varying mediums used for lasers such as solids, gases, excimers, and semiconductors.
- Pumping System – Excites the laser medium and can be done through optical or collision pumping.
The intense light produced by lasers can be used to cut materials, transmit data, read information, measure distances, and produce prints. And that is why lasers have widespread applications, especially in varying industries such as manufacturing, surgeries, textile, and printing.
Although useful, lasers can be sources of hazards, especially those with high power outputs used to cut materials. To prevent any work accidents, government agencies and departments have studied possible risks and have put up standards on safe laser usage and controls.
How to properly identify laser hazards using a laser safety checklist?
To pass the laser safety checklist, the inspector must first learn to identify laser hazard classifications as well as the non-beam hazards. And this is because each classification has different treatments during audits.
It is also important that an inspector take note of any government guidelines and guidance from related institutions such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that relate to lasers.
Laser Hazard Classifications
Laser hazards are usually divided into four classifications based on international standards. And these classifications are based on the biological damage it can cause and its Accessible Emission Limits (AEL). The AEL is defined as the maximum energy available to any manufactured laser within its class.
- Class I – These are laser devices that are considered generally safe because they can’t generate radiation at hazardous levels. Examples of these are CD players and laser printers.
- Class IA – These are laser devices that are considered safe unless exposed for 1000 seconds. Examples of these are barcode scanners that you can find in supermarkets or groceries.
- Class II – These are laser devices that have an energy output higher than Class I but have a radiant power not exceeding 1mW.
- Class IIIA – These are called intermediate power lasers ranging from 1-5mW radiation output and can be dangerous when directly viewed. Laser pointers belong in this category.
- Class IIIB – These are called moderate power lasers ranging from 5-500mW of radiation output. Immediate damage can be done to the skin and eyes from the direct beam.
- Class IV – These are called high-power lasers with more than 500mW output. A direct or reflected beam can cause immediate damage to eyes and skin and can even cause a fire.
Non-beam Laser Hazards
Aside from the possible damage to skin and eyes caused by direct or reflected laser beams, inspectors should also be on the lookout for non-beam hazards. Non-beam hazards refer to possible accidents caused by using lasers in industrial applications such as welding, cutting, and research.
Below are some of the listed hazards in the OSHA laser safety audit checklist:
- Industrial Hygiene – When using lasers for industrial welding or cutting, the welding process produces hazardous byproducts such as toxic fumes, carcinogenic materials, compressed gases. OSHA requires sufficient ventilation in these working areas.
- Explosion Hazards – Laser welding equipment has filaments and tubes that may explode under certain conditions. OSHA requires a sturdy encasement enough to contain the explosion.
- Collateral Radiation – High voltage lasers such as excimer lasers produce harmful radiation like x-ray emissions. Long exposure to these collateral radiations is hazardous and needs to be contained according to standard guidelines.
- Fire Hazards – Class IV lasers may produce irradiances that set their enclosures on fire. OSHA requires only the use of enclosure materials specified by the laser manufacturer.
What control measures are useful according to OSHA laser safety guidelines
According to the OSHA laser safety checklist, four control measure categories are useful in mitigating risks from the usage of various laser equipment. These are engineering controls, personal protective equipment, administrative and procedural controls, and special controls.
Aside from the inputs from OSHA, some of the details below are referenced from ANSI Z136 – Guidelines for Implementing a Safe Laser Program.
1. Engineering Controls
Engineering controls refer to systems that were designed and installed specifically for laser equipment. These controls are made in line with the manufacturer standards as well as the guidelines from ANSI. Below are some examples of engineering controls:
- Master Switch Control – This control refers to a secure means to turn on or off laser equipment by using a key or computer code. Using this control will prevent any accidents caused by the unwanted start or stop of the laser.
- Protective Housing – This control refers to a physical enclosure surrounding the laser equipment as well as the beam that it produces.
- Safety System for Optical Viewing – During laser operations that need to be viewed using a viewing port or screens, protective measures must be used, such as attenuators or filters.
- Beam Stop and Attenuators – For Class IV lasers, beam stops and attenuators need to be installed to mitigate radiation output when the laser is not operational.
2. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
The personal protective equipment that can be worn or put in place to serve as barriers to the harmful effects of lasers. Examples of these are:
- Laser Protective Apparels – These are eyewear and clothes designed to protect the worker from radiation and any byproducts of laser operations such as welding, cutting, and printing. Materials to be used on these are dependent upon the class of the laser and the working environment.
- Laser Barriers and Curtains – These are protective screens that redirect or diffuse any harmful laser beam away from the workers.
3. Administrative and Procedural Controls
These controls refer to a set of instructions or guidelines that workers in the workplace must follow. Administrative and procedural controls depend upon the manufacturer’s standards, workflow, and workplace conditions. One of the most common examples of this is Standard Operating Procedures (SOP).
4. Special Controls
Special controls are safety measures taken against invisible aspects of laser operation such as infrared and ultraviolet rays.
A digital solution to conduct successful laser safety checklist
A digital application for laser safety checklist offers companies several advantages. Sending paper documents back and forth and printing them out is eliminated. With Lumiform’s mobile app, inspections and assessments can easily be performed on the spot via an app. If everything is in order, work authorizations can be issued immediately. This way, you better ensure that all regulations and processes are being followed.
Spend less time worrying about the risks of unsafe laser handling and more time focusing on the actual task at hand. With a digital tool like Lumiform, give your team the ability to:
- Conduct laser safety inspections using digital inspection templates you can create in minutes, or customize pre-made templates from our library to fit your needs.
- Capture and instantly add photos during inspections and annotate them for better visual reference.
- Capture, assess and report hazards instantly via the app.
- Track the implementation of corrective actions via the dashboard.
- Automatically generate reports on your laser inspections as soon as they are completed, and immediately release lasers for work.
- Save all laser inspection reports securely in the cloud and access them at any time.