SUBJECT: Laser Safety Program

Purpose: The purpose of this Laser Safety Manual is to insure the safe use of lasers in
research activities at the Colorado School of Mines (Mines or the School). This Laser
Safety Manual outlines laser registration requirements, identifies hazards associated
with using lasers, provides recommendations for laser usage, outlines training
requirements and outlines medical monitoring requirements.

Authoritative Reference: American National Standard for Safe Use of Lasers (ANSI)
Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA 29 CFR 1910.133 – Eye and
Face Protection.
OSHA 29 CFR 1926.54 – Non-ionizing Radiation.

Laser Safety Manual Attachments:

Table 1 – ANSI Z136.1 Control Measures for the Four Laser Classes
Table 2 - Simplified Method for Selecting Laser Eye Protection for Intrabeam
Appendix A – Laser Registration Form
Appendix B – Laser System Standard Operating Procedures Template
Appendix C – Key Terms and Definitions

1. Assignment of Responsibilities

Faculty and Principal Investigators are responsible for the following:
 The immediate supervision of lasers in research and laboratory operations.
 Implement and enforce the safety recommendations and requirements outlined in
this Laser Safety Manual.
 Complete written Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for the use of class 3b
and class 4 lasers under their supervision, and submit the SOP to the
Environmental Health and Safety Department (EHS).
 Provide laser operators with specific safety and laser system operations training
including review of the SOP developed for laser systems under their supervision.
 Classify and label all lasers under their supervision.
 Register all lasers under their supervision with EHS.
 Attend an EHS Laser Safety Training class.
 Participate in the medical monitoring program for use of class 3b and class 4
 Notify EHS in case of injury following exposure to class 3 or class 4 lasers.

Laser operators are responsible for the following:
 Obtain laser specific training from the responsible Principal Investigator.
 Certify comprehension of the laser system operations and safety requirements by
signing the laser system SOP signature page.
 Inform Faculty, Principal Investigators, and EHS of any safety or exposure
incident or any variation or modification to the laser operation and the SOP.
 Attend the EHS Laser Safety Training class.
 Participate in the medical monitoring program for users of class 3b or class 4
 Follow established laser system SOP and safety policies during laser operation.

Prior authorization is required from the Principal Investigator for all student laser
operators to work independently with class 3b and class 4 laser systems. Consideration
of the operator’s technical training, applicable experience, and satisfaction of the laser
operator requirements listed above should be included with the Principal Investigator’s
authorization for a laser operator to work independently. Authorization to operate a
laser independently must be documented on the signature page of the laser system

The Environmental Health and Safety Department is responsible for the following:
 Conduct inspections of laboratory facilities to ensure standard operating
procedures and safety procedures are implemented.
 Assist Faculty and Principal Investigators in evaluating and controlling laser
 Revise the campus Laser Safety Procedures.
 Maintain a database of registered lasers.
 Review prepared SOP for laser systems used on campus.
 Maintain records of laser safety training.
 Conduct and assist with laser safety training for academic departments.
 Participate in accident investigation involving lasers.
 Coordinate and maintain the medical monitoring program.

2. Personnel Training and Qualifications

All staff and students who operate class 3 or class 4 lasers are required to attend a
Laser Safety Training class presented by the EHS department. The Laser Safety
Training will address:
 The biological effects of lasers.
 The physical principals of lasers.
 Laser classifications.
 Controls for laser laboratories and laser areas.
 Medical monitoring.
 Safety.
 Protective equipment and selection.
 Non-beam hazards such as electrical, fire, cryogenics and laser produced air


 Emergency response.
 Exposure incident reports.

3. Medical Monitoring Program

Laser operators, who routinely work in laser areas where class 3b or class 4 lasers are
used, should have a baseline eye examination. The examination will include an ocular
history, a macular function test using an Amsler Grid examination and a visual acuity
test. Costs of this examination will be paid by the EHS Department.
 Eye examinations should be completed prior to Graduate Student and Principal
Investigator’s initial work with lasers.
 To schedule an eye examination, contact the EHS Department by calling 303-
273-3869 or 303-273-3316 and request a laser eye examination.
 An eye examination is recommended upon termination of work as a laser
 Eye examinations are required immediately following any accidental exposure or
injury as a result of working with a laser.
 Incidental contact or association with laser operations, where exposure to laser
radiation sufficient to damage the eyes or skin is unlikely, does not necessitate
participation in the medical monitoring program.
 Periodic exams following the initial exam are not required.

4. Laser Exposure Incidents

In the event of an exposure or suspected exposure, EHS must be notified immediately.
The laser operator, Principal Investigator or a Faculty member associated with the laser
operation must ensure EHS receives notification. The operator who received the
exposure should immediately follow these procedures.
 Shut down the laser operation. Emergency shut down procedures must be
identified in the laser system SOP.
 Seek immediate medical attention.
 Notify the Principal Investigator, an academic Faculty member or EHS.
EHS will conduct an investigation into the incident and a report will be completed.
5. Laser Hazard Analysis

The selection of controls, safety equipment and the development of standard operating
procedures requires an identification and evaluation of individual laser radiation
hazards. The hazards associated with laser radiation include:
 Eye Injury – Acute, short term, exposure to lasers of certain wavelengths and
power have the potential to cause photokeratitis and more permanent damage by
burning the cornea and or retina. Chronic, long term, exposures may lead to
opacity damage (Cataracts) to the lens/cornea or damage to the retina.


 Skin – Acute exposures to laser radiation of certain wavelengths and power may
cause erythema, reddening of the skin, and skin burns. Chronic exposure to
ultraviolet wavelengths has been linked to the development of skin cancer.
 Non-Beam Hazards – Non-beam hazards must also be considered and controls
for these hazards must be identified on the laser SOP. Non-beam laser hazards
are included in Section 14 of this Laser Safety Manual.

EHS and the Principal Investigator will assemble laser information for each laser system
and conduct a nominal hazard zone analysis when required. A nominal hazard zone
analysis identifies laser areas where laser radiation is of sufficient power to cause injury
to skin and eyes.

6. Laser Classifications

Lasers are generally classified and controlled according to their classification. The
classification is based on the physical characteristics of the laser and the laser’s
potential for causing injury or accidents. Physical characteristics include power,
wavelength and duration of exposure or pulse. Potential for causing injury or accident
include immediate injury to the eyes or skin or likelihood for starting a fire either directly
or from reflective surfaces.

All lasers, manufactured after August 1, 1976, have been classified by the manufacturer
and identified by a label identifying the laser classification. Lasers are classified using
the following criteria.
 Class 1 – Low-power lasers and laser systems that cannot emit radiation levels
greater than the Maximum Permissible Exposure (MPE). Class 1 lasers are
incapable of causing eye injury and are exempt from control measures. Example:
laser printer.
 Class 2 – Visible low power lasers or laser systems that are incapable of causing
eye damage unless viewed for extended periods of time. Protection is provided
by the normal human aversion blink response. Example: laser pointers.
 Class 3a – Lasers that do not produce injury when viewed under normal
conditions for short periods of time. Injury could result from the use of collecting
optics or from chronic viewing. Example: HeNe lasers above 1 milliwatt (mW) but
less than 5 mW of radiant power.
 Class 3b – Lasers that produce eye injury when viewed directly or from specular
reflection. These may be visible or invisible beams. The power output ranges
from 5 to 500 mW for continuous wave lasers or the lower of 10 joules per square
centimeter (J/cm2) or the diffuse reflective limit for pulsed lasers.
 Class 4 – High power lasers capable of causing severe eye damage with short
duration exposures to the beam directly or through a specularly reflected or
diffusely reflected beam. Class 4 lasers are also capable of causing damage and
burns to the skin as well as igniting flammable or combustible materials.

It is the responsibility of the Principal Investigator to ensure proper labels that identify
the laser classification are present on all lasers under their supervision. The Principal


Investigator must also ensure any laser produced or fabricated at Mines is properly
classified, labeled and registered with EHS prior to its use. Principal Investigators may
contact EHS for assistance with classifying and labeling laser systems.

7. Safety Recommendations - All Laser Classifications

Eye Protection – Laser protective eyewear only offers protection against specific
wavelengths. One type of laser protective eyewear may not provide protection when
there is more than one laser or more than one wavelength emitted. Principal
Investigators must provide appropriate eye protection for lasers under their supervision.

The EHS Department will assist with the selection of the most appropriate eye
protection. The book Guide for the Selection of Laser Eye Protection, published by the
Laser Institute of America should be referenced to aid with the selection of laser
protective eyewear. A copy of this book is available through EHS. The guide Simplified
Method for Selecting Laser Eye Protection for Intrabeam Viewing is available online at A copy of this selection guide is
included with this Manual in Appendix D. Specific requirements for eye protection when
class 3b and class 4 laser systems are in use are outlined in Section 10 of this Laser
Safety Manual.

Beam Controls - Whenever possible the following safety guidelines should be followed
to minimize potential exposures to the eyes or skin.
 Confine or enclose the beam.
 Use non-reflective beam stops and enclosures.
 Do not align laser optics by direct viewing.
 Always use the lowest power possible to complete beam alignment operations.
 Always use the minimum power level to complete the required application.
 Keep optical benches clear of reflective materials.
 Confine the beam to the optical bench. Use barriers or other enclosures at the
sides of optical benches.
 Use non-reflective tools.
 Avoid wearing reflective jewelry when working with lasers.

Required Controls and Safety Measures for Class 1, Class 2 and Class 3a Lasers

Labels - Ensure a manufacturer’s label which identifies the laser classification and
applicable warnings is attached to the laser. See Section 6 of this Laser Safety Manual
for additional information on laser classification and labeling requirements.

Class 3a Operational Controls – Operators of class 3a lasers must follow the
operational procedures for direct viewing, alignment procedures and the use of optical
viewing aids described in Section 10 of this Laser Safety Manual.

Class 3a Training – Operators of class 3a lasers must attend the EHS Laser Safety
Training class.


Specific recommendations and required administrative and operational controls for each
laser classification operated at Mines are identified in Table 1 located on Page 14 of this
Laser Safety Manual

8. Administrative Controls for Class 3b and Class 4 Lasers

Laser System Registration – Principal Investigators must register all class 3b and
class 4 lasers under their supervision with EHS. The registration form is available with
this Laser Safety Manual in Appendix A. An electronic copy is available with calling

Standard Operating Procedures – All Principal Investigators are required to prepare a
written SOP for each class 3b and class 4 laser or laser system under their supervision
at the School. A copy of the SOP must be submitted to EHS. The SOP must also be
posted in the laboratory where the laser is operated and made available to all laser

All SOPs must identify the specific laser and address laser start up, operating
procedures, alignment, area access, maintenance, shut down, beam controls, warning
systems and related safety procedures. All laser operators must sign the signature
page on the SOP to certify their review and understanding of the proper operation of the
laser system. Principal Investigators must approve student laser operators for
independent work with a laser system on the SOP.

Lasers used in research applications often generate the need for unique operating
procedures. These operating procedures often increase the potential for exposure. A
written SOP must address any unique situations where the laser will be operated in a
manner that could increase the potential for exposure. Required safety procedures to
prevent exposure to laser radiation must be outlined. Examples of these unique
situations include:
 Operations which require the use of laser protective eyewear, shields, enclosures
and access control that fall outside normal operations.
 Use of two or more class 3b or class 4 lasers in the same laboratory by separate
operators without permanent barriers.
 Use of an interlock bypass.
 Situations where a class 3b or class 4 lasers are operated by visiting or contract
personnel at the School.
 Research operations that require the use of School owned class 3b or class 4
lasers off the Mines campus.
 Operation of a laser laboratory that is not equipped with controls identified in this
Laser Safety Manual.
 Operations that bypass established engineering controls.
 The unattended operations of class 3b or class 4 laser systems.
 Laser system modifications.
 Control of non-beam hazards such as electrical equipment, toxic or flammable


A template for the preparation of a laser system SOP is included with this Laser Safety
Manual in Appendix B. An electronic copy is available by calling EHS.

Labels – All class 3b and class 4 lasers must be labeled with the manufacturers label
identifying the laser classification and applicable warnings. The circuit breaker that
controls electrical power to the laser must be clearly identified. Principal Investigators
are responsible for the inspection and replacement of missing labels. Contact EHS if
assistance with replacement labels is required.

Warning Signs – Each entrance to a laser laboratory and laser area where a class 3b
or class 4 laser is operated must be posted with warning signs as specified by ANSI
Z136.1-2000 Figure 1b or Figure 1c. EHS also recommends warning signs on the entry
door to class 3a laser laboratories. Principal Investigators should contact EHS for
assistance with the selection of appropriate warning signs.

Operation, Service, and Maintenance Log - An operations log must be maintained for
each class 3b and class 4 laser used on the Mines campus. This log should show
periods of laser operation in the laboratory as well as periods of service and
maintenance. The type of service or maintenance performed should be included. Tests
on safety equipment such as Interlocks, warning lights, and the emergency power shut
off must also be documented.

Access Control - During class 3b and class 4 laser operations, laser laboratories must
be operated to limit access. The activation of warning lights and warning signs on the
laboratory access door is an example of a system to control access during times the
laser is energized.

Access to the laser control area may be granted to authorized and trained personnel
only at the discretion of the Principal Investigator or laser operator.

Training – All operators of class 3b and class 4 lasers must attend a Laser Safety
Training class presented by the EHS Department. Training requirements are outlined in
Section 2 of this Laser Safety Manual.

Authorized Personnel and Laser Area Visitors – Authorization to enter an
operational laser control area is provided by the Principal Investigator. The Principal
Investigator must identify all laser system hazards, the warning system, emergency
procedures and the appropriate laser protective eyewear. This introduction to the laser
system does not provide authorization to operate a class 3b or class 4 laser system.

Laser Maintenance and Service Personnel – Only trained personnel are permitted to
perform maintenance on lasers and laser systems. All equipment including interlocks,
alarms, warning lights, and relief devices will be maintained, calibrated, and tested on a
regular basis in accordance with the manufacturers recommended service intervals.


See the Operations, Service and Maintenance Log portion of this Section for additional

For maintenance completed by Mines personnel, the name and qualifications of the
person maintaining the laser and laser system must be included in the laser SOP.

Medical Monitoring – Prior to working with class 3b and class 4 lasers, laser operators
should complete an eye exam as part of the School’s medical monitoring program. The
medical monitoring program is described in Section 3 of this Laser Safety Manual.

9. Engineering Controls for Class 3b and Class 4 Lasers

Protective Housings – All class 3b and class 4 lasers and laser systems need to be
enclosed in a protective housing during normal operations. Protective housings on
class 3b and class 4 lasers must be equipped with a safety interlock to prevent laser
operation when the housing is removed. Activities that require the operation of the laser
without the protective housing requires additional administrative and engineering
controls including:
 Eye Protection.
 Barriers, shrouds, beam stops and other engineering controls to prevent exposure
to the beam.
 Written procedures outlined in the laser system SOP.
 Evaluation of the procedures by EHS.

Protective housings which allow walk-in access to a class 3b or class 4 laser control
area must be equipped with a warning system and an interlock with the laser power
supply to prevent laser activation and potential exposure to laser radiation above the

Removal of service access panels must be managed in the same manner as protective
housings. The service panel must be interlocked to prevent operation of the laser when
the panel is removed. Activities that bypass an interlock on the access panel requires
eye protection, barriers, shrouds, a written SOP and evaluation of the operating
procedures by EHS.

Key Control or Access Codes – Class 4 lasers must be equipped with a master switch
and key or uses an access code that prevents unauthorized use of the laser. Keys and
access codes should not be left with the laser when it is not in use. EHS recommends
the use of key controls or access codes for class 3b lasers as well.

Activation Warning Systems – All class 4 lasers must use a system which includes an
audible sound such as a bell or a verbal countdown to warn of imminent laser activation
or startup. Visual warnings such as a flashing light during laser activation and operation
must also be used. EHS recommends the use of similar activation warning systems for
class 3b lasers.


Safety Interlocks – Access doors to a laser laboratory or enclosures around a laser
area where class 3b or class 4 lasers are operated must be equipped with safety
interlocks to prevent laser operation when the safety interlock circuit is broken.
Interlocks must be tested quarterly and a written record of the interlock test must be
documented in the laser system log book.

Protective enclosures surrounding class 3b and class 4 laser control areas and high
voltage electrical sources must also be equipped with interlocks. The interlock design
must ensure the system cannot be reenergized when protective housing or enclosures
are removed.

In situations where interlocks are not feasible, the Principal Investigator may consider
the use of warning lights, alarms or voice warnings to notify personnel not to enter
laboratories and laser areas where class 3b or class 4 lasers are in use. These
procedures must be included in the SOP and approved by the EHS Department prior to
laser operations.

Beam Stops and Attenuators - All class 4 lasers must be equipped with a permanent
beam stop or beam attenuator. A beam stop or attenuator can be used to reduce laser
radiation levels below the MPE. Situations where a beam stop or beam attenuator must
be used include instances when the laser is not operated at full power, during service
events, when the laser is in standby mode, or during a required warm up period. For
lasers that do not require a warm up period, the power switch may be substituted for a
beam stop or attenuator. EHS recommends the use of a stop or beam attenuator with
all class 3b lasers.

Laboratory Equipment - Windows and doors must be covered to prevent injury due to
a reflected beam. Diffuse reflective materials should be provided for use in laser
laboratories. All mirrors, prisms and beam stops in the path of the beam must be
securely fastened to the optical table. The laser unit must also be securely fastened.
Class 3b and class 4 infrared lasers with wavelengths greater than 710 nanometers
must be terminated with fire resistant materials.

Reflection Controls – As listed under Laboratory Equipment in this Section, only
materials that diffusely reflect laser radiation should be used. To minimize personnel
exposure, specularly reflecting surfaces that are needed for beam path control must be
enclosed or shielded. Any reflective materials that are not needed must be moved from
the laser operating area.

Beam Enclosures – The entire beam path as well as the beam termination point of
class 3b and class 4 lasers should be fully surrounded by an enclosure and equipped
with interlocks that prevent the operation of the laser system unless the enclosure is
properly secured. In situations where a class 3b or class 4 laser is open or not
enclosed, the Principal Investigator and EHS will evaluate the nominal hazard zone.
The nominal hazard zone analysis will be used to delineate a laser control area. This


analysis will be used to identify appropriate controls to prevent injury from laser
radiation. These controls must be included in the written SOP for the laser system.

Invisible Beam Controls – Ultraviolet and infrared lasers that emit invisible beams are
subject to the following additional controls.
 Visual or audible warning devices must be installed at the entryway to the laser
laboratory and around a laser control area where personnel may be exposed to
an invisible beam. These warning devices must be clearly identified and visible
from all areas of the laser laboratory where the potential for exposure exists.
 Shielding must be used to attenuate the ultraviolet radiation to levels below the
 The use of intense ultraviolet radiation may cause the generation of hazardous
byproduct materials. Controls for these hazardous byproduct materials must be
considered and outlined under non-beam hazards in the laser system’s SOP.
 Infrared beam enclosures and backstops must be fabricated of infrared absorbing
materials. In situations where class 4 infrared lasers are used, the materials must
also be fire resistant.

10. Operational Procedures for Class 3 and Class 4 Lasers

Direct Viewing Procedures– Laser operators and authorized laboratory personnel
must never look directly into any laser beam unless this practice is specifically outlined
as a safe procedure in the written SOP for the laser system. In cases where it is
necessary to directly view a beam from class 3 or class 4 lasers, special provisions
such as the use of filters and beam attenuators are mandatory. These special
provisions must lower the exposure to laser radiation to below the determined MPE
while viewing the beam. The procedures for safely viewing the class 3b and class 4
lasers must be outlined in the laser systems standard operating procedures.

Alignment Procedures– Alignment of class 2, class 3 and class 4 lasers and optical
systems must be performed in a manner that does not allow eye exposure to the beam
or specular reflection above the MPE. Whenever possible, class 1 or class 2 lasers
should be used to align class 3 or class 4 lasers. Temporary beam attenuators placed
over the beam aperture can reduce the laser radiation level below the MPE. SOPs for
class 3b and class 4 lasers must include alignment procedures and controls.

Optical Viewing Aids – Optical systems such as cameras, telescopes, lenses,
microscopes, etc. may potentially increase the exposure hazards to the eyes.
Collecting optics intended for viewing a laser must incorporate appropriate controls such
as filters or attenuators to maintain laser radiation levels transmitted through the optical
systems below the MPE. The safe use of collecting optics for class 3b and class 4
lasers must be described on the laser SOP.

Eye Protection - Laser protective eyewear must be worn whenever radiation form a
class 3b or class 4 laser has the potential to exceed the MPE. Irrelevant to the laser


MPE, laser operators should always wear laser protective eyewear when lasers are in

Laser protective eyewear provides protection over a narrow range of the laser
spectrum. Protective eyewear may provide protection at one wavelength but provide no
protection at a different wavelength.

For dual wavelength lasers, appropriate laser eye protection must be evaluated by the
Principal Investigator and EHS. Consult laser protective eyewear manufacturer’s
product information and consult EHS for assistance selecting appropriate laser
protective eyewear.

Eyewear is subject to damage and deterioration over time. Everyone involved with a
laser laboratory must take the time to thoroughly inspect the laser protective eyewear.
The inspection should ensure side shields are incorporated into the laser eyewear to
prevent accidental eye exposure from specular reflection of the beam. Principal
Investigators are responsible for replacing damaged eyewear and for taking damaged
eyewear out of service.

Appropriate eyewear must be identified in the laser systems SOP. An adequate supply
of laser protective eyewear must be available for laser operators, authorized
researchers and visitors to the laser laboratory.

11. Unattended Equipment

Unattended lasers must be secured to prevent unauthorized use or activation of the
laser system. Operators must de-energize power supplies and remove the keys from
the power switch or use all other means to prevent unauthorized use of a laser system.

The operation of an unattended laser is permitted only when the procedures are
included with the laser system SOP and approved by EHS.

12. Temporary Laser Facilities

For situations such as service adjustments, maintenance, or training, it may be
necessary to establish a temporary laser facility. Temporary laser facilities may require
the removal or bypass of protective equipment and safety interlocks. Since a temporary
laser facility will not have the standard safety features installed or active during these
situations, the SOP for the laser system must describe provisions for protecting laser
operators and laboratory personnel. These provisions must include restricting access,
use of proper laser protective eyewear and enclosure of optical path to prevent
exposure to the beam above the MPE.

Temporary facilities for training purposes often are scheduled long after the preparation
of the SOP. For unforeseen situations where a laser will be used for training in a


temporary setting, the Principal Investigator must notify EHS of the establishment of a
temporary laser facility.

13. Converting to a Class 1 Enclosed Laser

Any laser or laser system can be converted to a class 1 laser by including all of the
following controls in the laser system design.

Protective Housing
 Use a protective housing to enclose the laser system to prevent the release of
laser radiation above the MPE.
 Ensure the protective housing prevents access to the laser system and beam
during operation using interlocks.
 Laser operators who require access to an enclosure to adjust optics or perform
maintenance must be familiar with the potential hazards associated with the beam
and the use of controls, protective eyewear, and enclosures for performing these
 The types of enclosures and controls must be identified in the laser system SOP.

Safety Interlocks
 Use interlocks where the protective enclosure can be opened, removed or
 The interlocks must de-energize the laser to prevent exposure to laser radiation
above the MPE.
 Service adjustments or maintenance work must not render the interlocks
 Service adjustments or maintenance work must be controlled so exposures
outside an enclosure can not exceed the MPE.

Additional Requirements
 The protective enclosure and the laser system must be designed and fabricated
so that if an enclosure failure occurs, the enclosure system will continue to meet
the requirements for an enclosed laser system.
 Modifications to commercial laser systems must be evaluated by the Principal
Investigator supervising the laser. These modifications as well as revised
procedures and controls for the operation of the modified laser must be identified
in the laser SOP.
 Use viewing windows containing suitable filtering material that will attenuate laser
radiation to below the MPE during laser operations.
 Label the enclosure with “Caution-Enclosed Laser” in readily visible locations on
the laser enclosure.
 Attach a label that identifies the laser classification directly to the laser so the
classification is identified in the absence of the enclosure. The use of these
controls will enclose the laser and prevent contact or exposure to laser radiation
while permitting unrestricted access into a laser laboratory.


14. Associated Hazards

In addition to laser beam hazards and exposures to laser radiation, chemical and
physical hazards related to laser operation must be evaluated and controlled. In
situations where non-beam hazards exist in a laser laboratory, the Principal Investigator
must identify the hazards and outline control mechanisms in the laser system SOP.

Electrical Equipment – Laser operators must be aware of potential electric shock or
fire hazards associated with the electrical power sources. Any installation, operation,
maintenance, or modification of these electrical systems must be inspected by the Plant
Facilities Electric Shop.

Ionizing Radiation – A laser operation may involve ionizing radiation from the presence
of radioactive materials or the use of electrical power above 15 kilovolts. The use of
radioactive materials must be included in the laser system SOP. Electrical power usage
information is required on the EHS laser registration form.

Non-ionizing Radiation – Microwave and radio frequency fields may be generated by
laser systems or support equipment.

Lighting – If lights are turned off or dimmed during laser operations, control switches
must be installed at convenient locations or radio controlled lighting controls may be
used. Luminescent strips should be used to identify table and equipment corners,
control switch locations and aisles. In situations where natural lighting is not sufficient
for safe egress, emergency lighting must be used.

Hazardous Materials – Use and store only those hazardous materials that are needed
for the laser operation. Do not allow laser beams or strong reflections to contact
combustible or flammable liquids or gasses. A material safety data sheet (MSDS) for
each hazardous material used in the laser laboratory must be posted in the MSDS
binder in the laboratory. Laser operators must be familiar with the information contained
in the MSDS including proper storage, flammable properties and potential health effects
before working with the hazardous material. MSDSs are available through EHS.

Dyes – Dye lasers typically use a lasing medium composed of a fluorescent organic dye
dissolved in an organic solvent. Toxicity and flammability of these dyes vary greatly
depending on both the type of dye and the solvent. Laser operators and Principal
Investigators are responsible for ensuring an MSDS for all dyes and solvents is
available in the laboratory MSDS binder. Mixing of laser dyes should occur inside a
laboratory fume hood. Appropriate gloves and eye protection must be worn while
preparing these dye solutions. Call EHS for assistance with selecting the most
appropriate protective equipment. Laser operators should pressure test all laser dye
components before using a dye solution.

Laser Generated Air Contaminants – Air contaminants may be produced by the
interaction of the laser beam with target materials. Fumes and aerosols may be


produced when a laser beam burns a metal or organic material. Adequate local
exhaust ventilation needs to be provided in the laser target zone to collect and remove
airborne contaminants. EHS can assist Principal Investigators with the evaluation and
design of a local exhaust ventilation system to control air contaminants.

Cryogenic Liquids – Some laser systems require the use of cryogenic liquids such as
liquid nitrogen during laser operations. Skin or eye contact with cryogenic liquids can
cause frost bite resulting in tissue damage. Cryogenic liquids can also displace oxygen
in a room if the space is small or poorly ventilated. Appropriate protective equipment
should be worn when operations require potential contact with cryogenic liquids. Laser
operators should use appropriate dewars to move cryogenic liquids to the laser
laboratory. Operators must also ensure the cryogenic liquid is used in a well ventilated


Colorado School of Mines
Laser Safety Manual

TABLE 1 Control Measures for the Four Laser Classifications
Reproduced from ANSI Z136.1 – 2000

Control Measures and ANSI

Laser Classification

Standard Citation
Recommended Engineering Controls
Class 1
Class 2
Class 3a Class 3b
Class 4
Protective Housing (4.3.1)
Without Protective Housing (
Establish Alternate Procedures And Document In
Laser System SOP
Interlocks on Protective Housing

Service Access Panel (4.3.3)

Key Control (4.3.4)

Viewing Portals (

Collecting Optics (
Totally Open Beam Path (

Limited Open Beam Path (

Enclosed Beam Path (
No Requirement If 4.3.1 And 4.3.2 Are Followed
Remote Interlock Connector (4.3.7)

Beam Stop or Attenuator (4.3.8)

Activation Warning Systems (

Emission Delay

Indoor Laser Controlled Area (4.3.10)

Class 3b Laser Controlled (


Class 4 Laser Controlled (

Outdoors Control (4.3.11)

Laser in Navigable Airspace (

Temporary Laser Controlled Area

Remote Firing and Monitoring (4.3.13)

Labels (4.3.14 and 4.7)
Area Postings (4.3.9)


X = Required
● = Should
= No Requirement
= Shall / Must If Enclosed Class 3b or Class 4 Laser
MPE = Required if Maximum Permissible Exposure Is Exceeded
NHZ = Nominal Hazard Zone Analysis Required
* = Applicable Only To Ultraviolet and Infrared Lasers (

Colorado School of Mines
Laser Safety Manual

TABLE 1 (Continued) Control Measures for the Four Laser Classifications
Reproduced from ANSI Z136.1 – 2000

Control Measures and

Laser Classification

ANSI Standard Citation
Administrative And Procedural
Class 1
Class 2
Class 3a Class 3b
Class 4
Laser Registration (Mines Policy)

Standard Operating Procedures


Output Emission Limitations (4.4.2)

Require Evaluation & Control
Education And Training (4.4.3)

Authorized Personnel (4.4.4)

Alignment Procedures (4.4.5)


Protective Equipment (4.6)

Spectator (4.4.6)

Service Personnel (4.4.7)
General Public Demonstration (4.5.1)


Laser Optical Fiber System (4.5.2)



Laser Robotic Installations (4.5.3)

Eye Protection (4.6.2)

● - MPE
Protective Windows (4.6.3)

Protective Barriers And Curtains

Skin Protection (4.6.6)

Other Protective Equipment (4.6.7)
Require Evaluation & Control And Use As Outlined In
Warning Signs And Labels (4.7)

(Design Requirements)
Service And Repairs (4.4.7)
Require Evaluation & Control. Develop SOP
Modifications & Laser Systems (4.1.2) Require Evaluation & Control. Develop SOP

X = Required
● = Should
= No Requirement
= Shall / Must If Enclosed Class 3b or Class 4 Laser
MPE = Required if Maximum Permissible Exposure Is Exceeded
NHZ = Nominal Hazard Zone Analysis Required
* = Applicable Only To Ultraviolet and Infrared Lasers (

Colorado School of Mines
Laser Safety Manual

TABLE 2 - Simplified Method for Selecting Laser Eye Protection for Interbeam Viewing for
Wavelengths Between 100-1400 nanometers**

Continuous Wave Continuous Wave
Lasers Momentary Lasers Momentary
(10-9 - 10-2)
(0.25 – 10)
(Less than 1 Hour)
Maximum Maximum Maximum Maximum Maximum Maximum Maximum Maximum Attenuation OD
Output Irradiance
Output Irradiance
(J•cm2) Exposure (J•cm2) Exposure
(W• cm2)
(W• cm2)
105 *
2x105 *
100 *
100,000,000 8
104 *
2x104 *
10 *
10,000,000 7
103 *
2x103 *
1,000,000 6
100 *
200 *
100,000 5
10,000 4
1,000 3
100 2
10 1
* Not recommended as a control procedure at these levels. These levels of power output could
damage or destroy the attenuating materials in the protection. The skin also needs protection at
these levels.
** Use of this table may result in optical densities (OD) greater than necessary. See ANSI
Z136.1-2000, Section 4.6.2 for other wavelengths.

Appendix A

Laser System Registration Form

Colorado School of Mines - Laser Registration Form

All class 3b and class 4 lasers must be registered with the Environmental Health and Safety
Department (EHS). Please forward the completed registration form to EHS.

1. General Information
Principal Investigator:

Academic Department:

Office Location:
Phone Extension:
Mail Address:

2. Laser System Description
Location of Laser (lab number and building):

Manufacturer Name:
Model Number:

Serial Number:
Laser Classification:

Laser Type (Nd-YAG, CO2, etc.:

Use of Laser System:



(Check all that apply)

3. Optical Characteristics
Wavelength(s) or Range (nm):

Beam Diameter (mm):

Beam Divergence (mrad):

Nominal Hazard Zone (NHZ) If Provided by the Manufacturer:

4. Operating Mode

Continuous Wave:

Maximum Average Power (watts):

Exposure Distance (meters)



Pulse Duration (Sec):

Repetition Rate:

Pulse Width:

Has the laser been modified from its original design/configuration? (Yes or No)

If Yes – Describe Modifications:

Safety Precautions – Please verify the following controls are in place.
Please verify the use of the following controls.
Access / Postings

Posted Entrance

Laboratory Security (key card or limited laboratory access)

Established Control Area

Warning Signs
Administrative Controls

Written Standard Operating Procedures

Written Alignment Procedures

Personnel Trained In Standard Operating Procedures

Emergency Contacts Posted

Personnel Authorization

Laser Classification Label

Laser Hazard Label
Engineering Controls

Enclosed Beam

Protective Housing

Protective Housing Interlock

Service Panel Interlock

Key / Access Pad Control

Beam Stop / Attenuator

Activation Warning Systems

Window / Doorway Covered

Reflective Materials Removed
Personal Protective Equipment

Laser Protective Eyewear

Skin Protection Procedures
Safe Practices

Laser and Optics Secured to Table or Work Surface

Beam Intensity Reduced for Alignment

Laser Located Below Eye Level

Use of Optical Viewing Aids With Procedures in SOP
Non-Beam Hazards

Laser Dyes in Use

Compressed Gases in Use

Cryogenic Material in Use

Local Exhaust Ventilation in Use

Fire Hazards Evaluated

Electrical Hazards Evaluated

Upon completion of this form please return to:
Environmental Health and Safety Department
Chauvenet Hall Room 195
Fax (303) 384-2081

Appendix B

Laser System Standard Operating Procedures Template

Laser System Standard Operating Procedures for Class 3b and Class 4 Lasers
SOP Outline
1. Laser Supervisor / Principal Investigator
Printed Name:


2. Laser System Identification
Laser Name/Manufacturer/Model:

Laser Classification:
Is the beam visible? (Yes or No

3. Introduction
Indicate the physical location of this laser including the building and room number:

Provide a brief description of the overall mode of operation of this laboratory including the
total number of active lasers and a description of the laser research being conducted.

4. Safe Start-Up Procedures
Prior to laser operation, the following start up procedures will be implemented to ensure





5. Safe Shut-Down Procedures
The following non-emergency shut-down procedures will be implemented to ensure safety.



Is a main emergency shut off available on the laser unit or in the laboratory? (Yes/No)

Is the Emergency Shut off Clearly Marked? (Yes/No)

6. Laser and Laboratory Access Control
Describe access to lab (key, card key, combination, etc.)
Do unauthorized personnel have access to the laser laboratory? (Yes/No)

Does the laser use a key or access panel to prevent unauthorized laser operation?

Describe procedures to prevent unauthorized laser operations:

7. Describe Alignment Procedures
All laser users must be aware that most laser accidents occur during alignment. Precautions
must be taken to prevent exposure during alignment. Alignment procedures must be
performed in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions, and at the lowest possible power
output. Alignment procedures should include all of the following;
 Notify lab personnel of intended alignment procedures.
 Ensure only authorized personnel are in the area.
 Use appropriate laser protective eyewear.
 Follow standard safe operating procedures listed below.
 Remove laser housing, cover or enclosure as needed.
 Override the laser interlocks and commence alignment.
 Close aperture when cleaning optics.
 Operator will not leave laser unattended until housing and enclosures are in place and
interlocks are operational.
Please use the following space to specifically describe alignment procedures and precautions
associated with the alignment of this laser system.

8. Laser Warning Systems
Describe Laboratory Entrance Warning Signs:

Describe Laser Control Area Warning Signs:

Please contact EHS if you need assistance establishing appropriate warning systems.
9. Beam Controls
Is the laser beam path open, enclosed, or partially enclosed?

Please describe the enclosure if applicable:

Is the enclosure equipped with interlocks? (Yes/No)
Describe the interlock system:

Identify required exposure controls when operations bypass the interlock:

How is the beam terminated?

Are other beam controls in use? (curtains, window covers, etc.) Please describe:

10. Exposure Controls
Are the laser protective housing and service panel equipped with interlocks? (Yes or No)

Identify required exposure controls when operations bypass these interlocks:

Identify established procedures for directly viewing the beam:

Describe established procedures for using optical viewing aids:

Describe established procedures for operating two lasers in a laser laboratory or control area.

11. Laser Protective Eyewear
Provide the following information for the protective eyewear needed for this laser:

Eyewear Manufacturer
Optical Density
Wavelength or Range
Storage Location

12. Emergency Procedures
Authorized laser operators and laser laboratory occupants must be familiar with specific
laboratory and building emergency procedures. Authorized laser operators must be familiar
with evacuation plans, locations for emergency laser shut off, procedures for fires or medical
emergencies. Emergency shut off and emergency procedures include: (Check all that apply)
On/Off switch or key control on laser control panel.
External emergency power off button on wall close to the entryway or other location.
Circuit Breaker Box. (Breaker controlling the laser operation is clearly marked)
Replace beam stop.
EHS emergency procedures are posted near the telephone in the laser laboratory.
Please identify any laboratory specific emergency procedures:

13. Maintenance
Only specially trained personnel are permitted to perform maintenance on lasers and laser
systems. All equipment including safety interlocks, alarms, warning lights, and relief devices
will be maintained, calibrated and tested on a regular basis in accordance with manufacturers
recommended intervals. All equipment maintenance will be logged as described below.

If maintenance is to be completed by Mines personnel, please identify the person responsible
for completing the maintenance and their qualifications for properly and safety maintaining
laser equipment.

14. Temporary Laser Facilities
Describe provisions for protecting laser operators, students and spectators when a temporary
laser facility is established.

EHS must be notified whenever a Principal Investigator establishes a temporary laser facility.
15. Non-beam Hazards
Identify all anticipated non-beam hazards and the controls such as personal protective
equipment, ventilation, or electrical safety procedures to prevent injury.

16. Laser Users

Only authorized personnel may operate the laser system identified by this SOP.
Authorization is granted upon completion of the following:

Review of the laser system operating manual
Laser specific training provided by the Principal Investigator.
General Laser Safety Training provided by EHS
Review this laser system SOP.
Certification that the operator has completed these requirements by signing
this SOP.

By signing this Laser System Standard Operating Procedure, I Certify I Have
Received All Required Training, And Fully Understand The Safety Procedures and
Safe Operating Procedures Identified In This Laser System Standard Operating
Procedure and the Operating Manual For This Laser System.

Printed Name
Department Investigator’s
Laser Operator

Appendix C

Key Terms and Definitions

Laser Safety Manual
Key Terms and Definitions

Accessible Radiation – Radiation to which it is possible for eye or skin exposure
during normal laser operations.

Attenuation – The decrease of radiant power of a laser beam as it passes through
absorbing media.

Authorized Laser Operator – A person who has attended an EHS Laser Safety
Training class, reviewed and signed the laser SOP, reviewed the operating manual and
received laser specific training from the Principal Investigator.

Authorized Personnel – Laser laboratory visitors, assistants, or researchers who
require access to the laser control area but are not authorized to operate the laser.
Authorized personnel must receive familiarization training from the Principal Investigator
prior to entering the laser control area.

Aversion Response – Movement of eyelid or head to avoid exposure to a laser.

Beam – Collection of rays which may be parallel, divergent or convergent.

Control Area – Laser laboratory or laser area where access is limited due to the laser

Diffuse Reflection – Change in the spatial distribution of a laser beam when reflected
in multiple directions usually from a non-reflective surface.

Independent Laser Operator – Authorized student laser operators who received
authorization from the Principal Investigator to operate a class 3b or class 4 laser
system without supervision. Independent laser operators must be identified on the
signature page of the laser system SOP.

Interlock – A mechanism where the electrical power or physical operation of a laser
system is interrupted in a fail safe mode as a result of a potential unsafe condition.

Laser – A device which generates a directional, coherent, single wavelength of light
with a narrow spectral range.

Laser System – An assembly of optical, electrical and mechanical components all
associated with an individual laser.

Maximum Permissible Exposure (MPE) – The level of laser radiation a person may
be exposed without hazardous effects or adverse biological changes to the eyes and

Nominal Hazard Zone – The space which the level of the direct, reflected, or scattered
radiation during normal operations exceeds the maximum permissible exposure.
Exposures beyond the boundary of the nominal hazard zone are below the maximum
permissible exposure level.

Laser Laboratory – A laboratory where a class 3 or class 4 laser is used.

Optical Aided Viewing – Viewing a laser source with an optical device such as an eye
loupe, hand magnifier, microscope, binoculars, telescope, etc. Optically aided viewing
does not include viewing with corrective eyewear or with direct image converters.

Optical Density (OD ) – Logarithm to the base ten of the reciprocal of the
transmittance. The higher the optical density, the lower the transmittance.

OD=-log10 τλ
OD=log10 [Hp/MPE]
τλ = Laser Transmittance
Hp= Exposure in W/cm2 or J/cm2
MPE = Limit in same units as Hp

Protective Housing – An enclosure surrounding the laser or laser system that prevents
access to laser radiation above the applicable maximum permissible exposure. The
aperture where the useful beam is emitted is not part of the protective housing. The
protective housing may enclose associated optics and workstation and limits access to
radiant energy emissions and to electrical hazards associated with components and

Pulse Duration – The duration of a laser pulse, usually measured at the time interval
between the half-power points on the leading and training edges of the pulse.

Pulse Repetition Frequency – The number of pulses occurring per second, expressed
in hertz.

Pulsed Laser – A laser which delivers energy in the form of a single pulse or a train of
pulses. Each pulse has time duration of less than 0.25 seconds.

Q-Switch – A devise for producing a very short intense laser pulse by enhancing the
storage and delivery of electrical energy in and out of the lasing medium.

Specular Reflection – A mirror like reflection.

Transmittance – The ratio of transmitted power to incident power.

Wavelength – The distance between two successive points on a periodic wave which
have the same phase.