Research Safety

Laser Safety Guidelines

 Safe Use of Lasers

 Safe Alignment of Class 3B & 4 Lasers

 Primary Causes of Laser Accidents

 Laser Classification Chart

 Responsibilities of the Laboratory Laser Safety Rep

 Responsibilities of the UGA Laser Safety Officer


  1. During alignment and use of class 3B and 4 lasers, exclude unnecessary personnel from the laboratory.
  2. Make sure that you have completed laser safety training before working with either a class 3B or 4 laser.
  3. Never intentionally look directly into the beam of a laser.  Do not stare at the light from any laser.  Allow yourself to blink if the light is too bright.
  4. Do not view a Class 3R or higher powered laser with optical instrumentation.
  5. Never direct the beam toward other people.
  6. Operate lasers only in the area designed for their use and make sure that the beam is terminated at the end of its use path.  Never allow a laser beam to escape its designated area of use.
  7. Position the laser so that the beam is well above or below eye level.
  8. Always block beams with a diffuse reflecting beam block that is sufficient to handle the power of the beam.
  9. Remove all unnecessary reflective objects from the area near the beam鈥檚 path.
  10. When working with lasers never wear jewelry or other items which may cause stray reflections.
  11. Always wear laser safety glasses of the appropriate optical density when working with class 4 lasers.  Safety eyewear is particularly important when working with class 4 invisible beams.
  12. Only qualified personnel are permitted to work on laser power supplies.  Laser repairs must be performed by qualified personnel.
  13. Never direct a laser beam upward unless it is absolutely necessary.
  14. Before working with lasers, make sure that all necessary safety parameters are in place as needed including:
    1. Door Signs,
    2. Safety Interlocks,
    3. Laser in use Warning Lights,
    4. Use of Laser Rated Safety Glasses of the Appropriate Optical Density,
    5. Beam blocks and terminators, etc.


  1. Alignments should only be performed by individuals who have completed laser safety training.
  2. Exclude unnecessary personnel for the laboratory during alignment procedures.
  3. Whenever possible, use a low power visible laser to simulate the path of the higher power laser that you are aligning.
  4. Wear protective eyewear during alignment, and use special alignment eyewear when possible.
  5. When aligning invisible beams, use beam display devices such as image converter viewers or phosphor cards to verify beam position.
  6. Perform alignments using the lowest possible power setting for the laser.
  7. Use a shutter or beam block to block high power beams at their source whenever possible.
  8. Make sure that beam blocks are laser rated, or are sufficient to safely terminate the beam.
  9. Use beam blocks and/or protective barriers in conditions where alignment beams could stray into unwanted areas.
  10. Place beam blocks behind optics to terminate beams that might miss mirrors during alignment.
  11. Locate and block all stray reflections at the first optical component before proceeding to the next.  Repeat procedure until all stray reflections have been accounted for and blocked.
  12. Double check to insure that all reflections have been properly terminated before beginning high power operations.


Note that 90% of all laser injuries have resulted from one or more of the first three items on this list.


  1. Unanticipated eye exposure during alignment
  2. Misaligned optics and upwardly directed beams
  3. Available laser eye protection not used
  4. Equipment malfunction
  5. Improper methods of handling high voltage
  6. Intentional exposure of unprotected personnel
  7. Operators unfamiliar with laser equipment
  8. Lack of adequate protection from non-beam hazards
  9. Improper restoration of equipment following service
  10. Eyewear worn not appropriate for laser in use
  11. Unanticipated exposure during laser usage
  12. Inhalation of laser generated contaminants
  13. Fires resulting from ignition of materials
  14. Eye or skin injury of photochemical origin
  15. Failure to follow guidelines and standard operating procedures (SOPs)


1Very low power lasers that are safe under all conditions of normal use.
1MNo known hazards to skin or eyes unless collection optics are employed.
2Visible lasers with no known hazards for exposures of up to 0.25 seconds.
2MSame as class two only may be dangerous if collection optics are used.
3RVisible or invisible lasers with a maxumum power of less than 5 mW.
3BVisible or invisible lasers that may be hazardous under normal conditions, and with a maximum power output of between 5 mW and 0.5 W. Usually not a skin hazard.
4High powered visible and invisible lasers that are an acute eye and skin hazard. The maximum power output is above 0.5 W.
  • All class 3B and 4 lasers must be registered with ESD using the form located on this site.
  • Comercially available systems that contain completely embedded lasers are considered to be class 1 systems (flow cytometers, etc.)
  • All personnel who intent to work with either class 3B or 4 lasers must first take on line laser safety training.


Responsibilities of the Laboratory Laser Safety Representative (from ANSI Z136.1-2007, Normative Appendix A3.1)

  1. Be responsible for the issuance of instructions and training materials
  2. Do not permit laser operation unless controls are adequate
  3. Submit names of individuals scheduled to work with lasers to the LSO
  4. Immediately notify the LSO of laser accidents
  5. Assist employees involved in an accident in obtaining medical attention
  6. Do not permit operation of a new or modified laser without approval of the LSO
  7. Submit plans for installation or modifications to installations to the LSO
  8. Be familiar with the laser SOPs

Responsibility of Employees Working with Lasers (from ANSI Z136.1-2007, Normative Appendix A3.2)

  1. Energize or work with lasers only when authorized to do so
  2. Comply with safety rules and procedures
  3. Notify supervisor or LSO in case of potential accident or injury


Responsibilities of the UGA Laser Safety Officer (from ANSI Z136.1-2007 Normative Appendix A 1.2)

  1. Establish and maintain policies and procedures
  2. Classify lasers or verify hazard class
  3. Perform hazard evaluation of laser work areas
  4. Specify control measures and assure implementation
  5. Approve procedures and SOPs
  6. Recommend and approve protective equipment
  7. Approve signs and labels
  8. Approve facilities, equipment, and modifications of the same
  9. Assure adequate training of laser personnel
  10. Determine personnel categories for medical surveillance
  11. Maintain records
  12. Perform periodic safety audits
  13. Investigate laser accidents
  14. Approve laser systems operation