Laser Safety


Lasers (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation), which produce an intense and highly directional beam of light, are used in many teaching and research applications on RIT's campus. The human body is vulnerable to the output of certain lasers, and under certain circumstances, exposure can result in damage to the eye and skin. Therefore, special precautions must be taken and personal protective equipment used when lasers are in use.

Applicable Regulation

OSHA has yet to promulgate standards applying specifically to lasers used in general industry. Although OSHA has not adopted any general industry laser specific standards, it often utilizes ANSI Z136.1 criteria for judging compliance with more generic safety standards as they relate to laser safety. OSHA can (and has) used the ANSI standard (accepted industry standard) and the General Duty clause to enforce worker safety.

The following safety standards, regulations, and policies will be the basis for RIT’s Laser Safety Program:

  • Eye and face protection (29 CFR 1910.132);
  • Lockout/Tagout (29 CFR 1910.147);
  • Respiratory Protection (29 CFR 1910.134);
  • OSHA’s General Duty Clause (Section 5);
  • Performance Standards for Light-Emitting Products (21CFR1040.10);
  • ANSI Z136.1-2000 Safe Use of Lasers; and
  • ANSI Z136.1-2005 Safe Use of Lasers in Educational Facilities.
  • OSHA STP 01-05-001 Guidelines for Laser Safety & Hazard Assessment
  • NYDOL Code Rule 50 - Lasers

Managment Requirements

Lasers and laser systems are classified according to the potential hazards associated with accessible radiation during normal operation that may cause biological damage to the eye and skin. Lasers shall be appropriately labeled according to the levels of accessible radiation to provide warning to laser users. Additionally, laser hazard classification defines appropriate control measures and medical surveillance. Lasers are classified into the following four categories:

  • Class I – Laser radiation from Class I lasers is not considered to be hazardous.
  • Class II – These lasers are considered to be a chronic viewing hazard.
  • Class III – Class IIIa lasers are considered to be a hazard under extended viewing conditions, or when viewed with collecting optics. Class IIIb lasers are considered to be an acute hazard to the skin and eyes from direct radiation.
  • Class IV – Laser radiation from class IV lasers is considered to be an acute hazard to the skin and eyes from direct and scattered radiation.

Appropriate signs and labels are posted to warn of the hazards from class II through IV lasers.

Training Requirements

RIT's Environmental Health and Safety Department shall make all efforts to ensure that laser users are provided with the necessary information, materials, and training that will enable them to work with lasers and laser systems in a safe manner. RIT requires annual Laser Safety Training for all faculty, students, and/or staff that operate Class IV, IIIA and B, and II lasers on RIT’s campus.