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Lasers


Laser Symbol
Laser Symbol

The State of Texas regulates the use of lasers through the Texas Department of State Health Services Services - Bureau of Radiation Control. The Texas State University - San Marcos EHSRM registers, and is responsible for, the safe use of all lasers on campus.

The Laser Safety Program outlines the requirements for the safe utilization of Class 3b and Class 4 laser devices on the university campus. Further details are provided in the Laser Safety Manual.

Lasers present many safety threats, but the most common threat is damage to the eyes. Other common laser concerns include skin damage, electrical hazards from high-energy power sources, chemical exposure, fire/explosion hazards, and exposure to cryogenic materials such as hydrogen and oxygen. Many lasers emit invisible ultraviolet or infrared radiation.


Lasers are classified into fivebasic categories as indicated below:

Class 1
Lowest power lasers that do not emit hazardous levels
Class 2
Low power visible light lasers that pose a hazard only if viewed directly for extended periods
Class 3a
Intermediate power lasers that would not normally cause injury to the eye unless viewed with collection optics
Class 3b
Medium power lasers that pose moderate risk and can cause injury
Class 4
High energy, high-risk lasers that can cause injury to the eyes and skin from direct or diffused reflection

NOTE:
If you work with a class 3b or 4 laser, you must obtain a Laser Permit from the Environmental Health, Safety & Risk Management office (EHSRM).

Laser devices require engineering controls to ensure safety. All Class 3 and 4 lasers require a combination of protective housing, area warning signs or remote firing capabilities.

The following information is required for obtaining a laser permit:

  • Classification of the laser device
  • Wavelength of the laser output
  • Power output
  • Appropriate eyewear

Follow these guidelines when working with Class 3b and 4 lasers:

  • Never aim a laser at a person.
  • Be very careful when working with hand-held laser pointers.
  • Do not allow children access to pointers.
  • Wear protective clothing such as eyewear and skin protection as appropriate.
  • Post warning signs at entrances where lasers are present.
  • When working with power supplies, remove jewelry, stand on a dry surface, and work with only one hand at a time. Observe high voltage precautions (see Electrical Safety chapter).
  • Control access to areas where lasers are used (i.e., no spectators).
  • If possible, enclose the entire laser beam path on Class 4 lasers.

Follow these guidelines when working with Class 3b and 4 lasers:

  • Never aim a laser at a person.
  • Be very careful when working with hand-held laser pointers.
  • Do not allow children access to pointers.
  • Wear protective clothing such as eyewear and skin protection as appropriate.
  • Post warning signs at entrances where lasers are present.
  • When working with power supplies, remove jewelry, stand on a dry surface, and work with only one hand at a time. Observe high voltage precautions (see Electrical Safety chapter).
  • Control access to areas where lasers are used (i.e., no spectators).
  • If possible, enclose the entire laser beam path on Class 4 lasers.

 


May 2011
Revised November 2014