Laser safety procedures
These procedures apply to all staff members (including contractors and visitors) and students at the University who use 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.
These procedures support the laser safety standard in order to clarify roles and to detail the way in which the standard must be implemented in key areas.
Roles and responsibilities
Deans of faculties and directors of service divisions
Deans of faculties and directors of service divisions must be able to identify the workplaces they are responsible for that use restricted lasers, so they can plan and provide adequate resources for safe laser operations.
If restricted lasers are being used, they must also appoint at least one laser laboratory coordinator.
Laser laboratory coordinator
Laser laboratory coordinators are experienced laser supervisors who have the authority to deem people competent in laser use and operation. They are able to instruct others on how to use lasers that they are authorised to use. They can supervise users (such as staff or students) who have not yet achieved the levels of competency required to be laser operators.
Each faculty that uses restricted lasers must have at least one laser laboratory coordinator who is responsible for ensuring that the faculty complies with the laser safety standard, and advise on laboratory and experiment set-up.
Laser supervisors are people who are deemed competent to instruct others on how to use lasers that they are authorised to use. They can supervise users (such as staff or students) who have not yet achieved the levels of competency required to be laser operators. They may also be required to administer day-to-day laser activities within a workplace.
Laser operators are people who have demonstrated competence to a level where they can work with minimum or no supervision on the specific lasers they have been trained to use. Laser operators are normally experienced people, such as technicians and some postgraduate students. Laser operators may be authorised on an “as required” basis to act as a responsible person/monitor to “buddy” other operators using restricted lasers.
A laser user is a person who has had only basic laser safety awareness training, and is not yet competent enough to be designated a laser operator. They may only use restricted lasers when a laser supervisor is present. Users are normally inexperienced students or staff.
A visitor is any person lawfully entering a workplace, who is not authorised to use or operate lasers or any other machinery or plant within. Visitors must not be put at risk by workplace activities.
Laser safety officer
The laser safety officer (LSO) is a competent person who is appointed by the Associate Director, Health, Safety and Wellbeing, on behalf of the University. This person is required to be knowledgeable in the evaluation and control of laser hazards, and is responsible for overseeing the control of laser hazards at the University. Duties of the LSO include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Approve laser laboratories and other workplaces where restricted lasers are being used
- Maintaining a register (inventory) of all restricted lasers at the University
- Approving the acquisition of any restricted laser for the University (regardless of whether the laser is purchased, hired, borrowed, gifted, manufactured, converted, etc.)
- Providing information and specialist advice on laser management and operation as requested or required
- Conducting periodic inspections of laser laboratories and other workplaces where restricted lasers are being used to verify compliance with the laser safety standard
- Coordinating and conducting investigations of laser incidents involving serious harm or notifiable events (including serious eye injuries, serious burns, and fires)
Training and competence
1. People using lasers must be trained to a level that reflects their role and the level of risk associated with the lasers being used, in accordance with the laser competency matrix. Laser Safety Awareness training is an in-house course usually delivered by the LSO, while lab inductions and training on specific restricted lasers are conducted on an individual basis by laser supervisors.
2. Any training received is to be recorded on a person’s record of learning (in Career Tools or similar database).
Assessing potential risk
3. In order for people to be informed of the level of risk that is associated with the laser they are using, lasers must be classified in accordance with AS/NZS IEC 60825.1, and clearly labelled with the laser’s class, wavelength and output power.
4. Laser risk levels are as follows:
- For the purpose of this protocol, all lasers that are classified as Class 1, 1C, 1M, 2, 2M or 3R in accordance with AS/NZS IEC 60825.1 are deemed to be unrestricted lasers. If used under normal operational conditions and without modification (e.g. using lenses to focus the beam) they are considered to pose a low or negligible risk.
- For the purpose of this protocol, all high-powered laser pointers and those lasers that are classified as Class 3B or Class 4 in accordance with AS/NZS IEC 60825.1 are deemed to be restricted lasers. Restricted lasers pose a high risk to users and others if not properly controlled.
5. In the case of restricted lasers, a formal risk assessment must be carried out by the laser supervisor in accordance with the University’s risk management standard so that existing controls can be documented, and further controls can be identified and implemented.
Controlling identified risks
6. All laser risks are to be controlled in accordance with the risk control hierarchy, which, in order of most preferred to least preferred method of control, is as follows:
- Elimination. Remove the exposure of the worker to harmful laser energy by totally enclosing the laser. This is the most preferred of all the controls and should be used wherever possible
- Substitution. Remove the exposure of the worker to harmful laser energy by using a less powerful laser to accomplish the task
- Isolation through engineering. Minimise the risk of harm by isolating a person from a high risk laser (laser controlled areas, beam guides and curtains)
- Minimisation through administrative controls (procedures and training)
- Minimisation through personal protective equipment (laser safety goggles, glasses, and appropriate clothing)
Maintenance and defects
7. Lasers and associated equipment must be installed, checked, inspected, cleaned, maintained and adjusted by a competent person in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Where required, these activities must be recorded.
8. When guards, covers, or other integral protective devices are removed or otherwise defeated during maintenance, power sources must be removed, isolated or locked out so that a laser is not able to be started using the power buttons or in alternative, other controls must be in place.
9. All disposals of restricted lasers must be conducted in consultation with the laser safety officer.
10. Restricted lasers that are to be sold or gifted to a third party must meet the following requirements:
- Supervisors must ensure the laser is in a safe working condition and make a written declaration confirming this for University records (declarations may be in the form of an email).
- Where defects cannot be resolved, a written declaration that details the defects must be made.
11. If the laser (or item of machinery and plant which incorporates a restricted laser in its construction) is being decommissioned because it is unsafe, the item must be rendered inoperable and destroyed or scrapped in accordance with the University Sustainability Policy.
12. Where such items are offered for scrap to a third party, a declaration is to state that the machinery or item of plant is only to be used for scrap.
The following definitions apply to this document:
Control is an item or action designed to remove a hazard or reduce the risk from it.
Hazard refers to anything that has the potential to cause harm (injury or ill-health) or damage to property or equipment in connection with a work activity.
High-powered laser pointer means a device that:
- Is commonly known as a laser pointer
- Is battery operated; and is designed or intended to be operated while held in the hand
- Produces a coherent beam of optical radiation of low divergence
- Has a power output of greater than 1 milliwatt.
Incident is any unplanned event resulting in, or having a potential for injury, ill health, damage or other loss.
Machinery is a collective term for machines and their parts. A machine is considered to be any powered apparatus that has interrelated parts and is used to perform work. Note that some machinery (such as laser cutters and engravers) may incorporate embedded high risk lasers; as long as the safeguards are intact, the machine may be categorised as an unrestricted laser product.
Maximum permissible exposure (MPE). The level of laser radiation to which a person may be exposed without hazardous effect or adverse biological changes to the eyes or skin. Exposure levels should be maintained as far below the MPE values as is practicable.
Plant is a general name for machinery, equipment, appliances, implements or tools and any component or fitting or accessory of these. Note that some items of plant (such as blu-ray players, laser microscopes and spectrometers) may incorporate embedded high risk lasers; as long as the safeguards are intact, the item of plant may be categorised as an unrestricted laser product.
Risk refers to the likelihood a hazard will cause harm (injury or ill health) and the degree of harm (consequence). Residual risk is the risk that remains after controls have been applied to a hazard.
Risk assessment is the process of evaluating the risk(s) arising from a hazard(s), taking into account the adequacy of any existing controls, and deciding whether or not the risk(s) is acceptable.
Role is an indication of a person’s competency when interacting with machinery and plant. Typical roles associated with laser use are: laser safety supervisor, supervisor, operator and user.
Safe Work Instruction(s) are written instructions to inform users of potentially harmful equipment about mandatory PPE, associated potential risks, prohibited actions, and actions that must be taken before, during and after use of the equipment.
University means the University of Auckland and includes all subsidiaries.
Workplace is any physical location in which work-related activities are performed under the control of the University.
Key relevant documents
Include the following: (in hierarchical order):
- Health and Safety at Work Act, 2015
- Health (High-power Laser Pointers) Regulations, 2013
- University of Auckland Health and Safety Policy
- University of Auckland Laser Safety Standard
- University of Auckland Laser Safety Guidelines
- AS/NZS IEC 60825.1. Safety of Laser Products, Part 1: Equipment Classification and Requirements
- AS/NZS IEC 60825.14. Safety of Laser Products, Part 14: A User’s Guide Procedure
Last Updated: Dec 2019
Next Review: Dec 2022
Approver: Associate Director, Health Safety & Wellbeing