Guidelines

Our guidelines give information on roles, purchasing, use, maintenance, transfer, disposal and emergency procedures.

Lasers pose unique hazards to their users and others who may be nearby.

The aim of our guidelines is to help staff and students operating lasers to follow good practice. This means working safely and in accordance with legal regulations AS NZS IEC 60825.1 and AS NZS IEC 60825.14.  

These guidelines are part of our laser safety protocol.

What the protocol does not cover

Medical or cosmetic lasers  

Note that the laser safety protocol does not cover medical or cosmetic lasers.  The use of such lasers in a medical setting is extremely complex and users must strictly comply with all applicable regulations and guidance – seek further advice.  

Laser displays and shows  

Lasers used in displays and shows are regulated under a specific standard (AS/NZS-IEC-608025.3 Safety of laser products, Part 3: Guidance for laser displays and shows) which provides guidance on the planning and design, set up and conduct of laser displays and shows that make use of high power lasers.  

The laser power needed to produce effective theatrical or artistic displays in large spaces such as theatres, arenas, or architectural sites is great enough to pose a severe accidental exposure hazard, even when personal exposure is very brief.

For this reason, sub-clause 4.1.5 of IEC/TR 60825-14 specifies that only laser products that are Class 1, Class 2 or visible-beam Class 3R should be used for demonstration, display or entertainment purposes in unsupervised areas. Laser products of other classes should only be permitted under carefully controlled conditions and under the control of a trained experienced operator.  

The guidance provides recommendations for safety for those laser displays or demonstrations that are:

  • Shows
  • Artistic displays
  • Advertising or light sculptures
  • Museum pieces used to demonstrate optical principles, etc.

Laser products available for use in a domestic environment or for use by people who cannot be expected to have received a suitable level of training should be Class 1, Class 2 or visible beam Class 3R. Therefore, such equipment is outside the scope of this guidance. 

Lasers: the basics

The word “laser” is an acronym of Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation. A laser produces an intense beam of light with the unique properties of coherency, collimation and monochromaticity. It is very common for lasers to be used in modern manufactured household products such as Blu-ray players, DVD players and optical computer drives.

In most cases they are safe for the eyes because they are enclosed inside a protective housing, but some exposed lasers (especially lasers in research laboratories and high-powered laser pointers) can be dangerous if they are not properly used or set up. 

A laser consists in a gain medium, capable of amplifying the light passing through, and an external system that provides energy, called pumping.  Lasers can be defined according to the material of the gain medium and also by the power output.  

The laser can operate in: 

  • Continuous wave (CW) mode if the power output is continuous over time
  • Pulsed mode if the power is turned on and off

According to the application that the laser will be used for, you might use one or the other. Usually the power used by lasers varies from a few milliwatts to several hundred watts. 

Hazards

The hazards related to the use of lasers are: 

  • Direct hazards, caused directly by exposure of the eye or skin to the laser beam.
  • Indirect hazards, caused by the interactions of the laser beam with reflecting objects in the environment.
  • Non-beam hazards, including electrical hazards from the equipment, fire, hazardous fumes if directing lasers on to certain materials, human factor (fatigue, risk perception), computer software and more.

Laser safety guidelines

Download the full version of our laser safety guidelines, which has more than 70 pages of essential information. 

Document Control
Version: 1.0
Last Updated: Dec 2019
Next Review: Dec 2022
Owner: hsw@auckland.ac.nz
Approver: Associate Director, Health Safety & Wellbeing