Safety Measures for High-Powered Lasers

thOZHJ9NJVHigh-power lasers for industrial cutting and welding commonly practiced on construction sites bring the potential for serious eye and skin damage from direct exposure to laser beam and secondary emissions. Experts advise that normal industrial safety practices may not be adequate for these powerful devices.

According to the Laser Institute of America, “All of these hazards can exceed personnel viewing exposure standards. Most industrial lasers are far infrared (IR-C) carbon-dioxide lasers and near-infrared (IR-A) neodymium-YAG lasers. The IR-C lasers pose hazards to the cornea of the eye and to the skin; whereas, the IR-A lasers pose a potential retinal burn hazard and thermal skin burn hazard.”

To address these hazards, OSHAhas renewed an alliance with the Laser Institute of America to help protect workers from exposure to beam and non-beam laser hazard in industrial, construction, medical and research workplaces.

“Workers unprotected from laser exposure can suffer serious eye and skin injuries including permanent blindness and tissue damage,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. During the five-year alliance, participants will provide annual training on the Best Practices Seminar on Laser Safety and develop a Webinar training program based on the seminar, and distribute laser safety guidance products at safety conferences and exhibits.

OSHA and LIA previously developed fact sheets on the effects of lasers on the eye and skin, hazards associated with using high-power welders and cutters, and materials for use during hazard analysis of workplaces with lasers.

The alliance also developed a guidance document outlining 10 steps necessary to begin a laser safety program in the health industry, and conducted 18 Laser Safety Best Practices seminars that trained more than 500 OSHA compliance personnel on what to look for and ask when entering facilities that use lasers.

Industrial laser systems sold in the U.S. are required to comply with the safety design features of the Federal standard for laser products contained in 21 CFR 1040 (Reference 3). While these standards assume safety for Class 1 products, the user must provide safe operation for Class 4 laser systems.

Users should periodically inspect all laser system components–including mirrors, view-port windows, light pipe–for signs of laser beam damage and remove a damaged system from service until it is repaired.

  • Scratched or damaged view-port windows should only be replaced with appropriate materials such as polycarbonate shielding.
  • Personnel required to view laser welding operations through unfiltered view-port windows may need to wear electric arc welding eye protection which affords a comfortable

More Helpful Information from the LIA:


Many industrial laser systems are safely “enclosed” and consist of three parts:

• The actual laser component.

• A light pipe which carries the laser beam.

• An interlocked work enclosure where the beam acts on a work-piece.

Each component encloses the beam so that personnel cannot gain ready access. Such systems are classified from a hazard standpoint by the American National Standard Institute (ANSI). Service or beam alignment procedures require development of safety standing operating procedures. Only trained personnel should perform these SOPs.


Many laser cutters and punch presses often are not entirely enclosed. A small gap may exist where sheet metal can be inserted. Such unenclosed laser systems are normally classified technically from a hazard stand-point by the ANSI Standard as Class 4 or high-power laser system. The ANSI Standard recommends locating Class 4 lasers in a separate closed room. Studies by the Laser/Optical Radiation Program (LORP), U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine (USACHPPM), indicates that potentially harmful laser emissions do not usually escape at the gap in a laser press. Measurements are needed to confirm this for each installation of covers for each laser wavelength and work situation.

For all your safety concerns, contact our offices at Diversified Safety Services.


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