Laser safety standard

This overarching standard can be measured against the standards AS/NZS IEC 60825.1 and AS/NZS IEC 60825.14.

Application

This standard applies 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. 

Purpose

The purpose of this standard is to:

  • Ensure no person is harmed by University activities that involve the use of lasers
  • Ensure members using lasers are aware of and minimise the risks associated with lasers
  • Ensure compliance with the University of Auckland's Laser Safety Protocol.

This standard states the minimum requirements for the operation and management of lasers within the University. Further information on how to meet this standard can be found in the Laser Safety Procedures and Laser Safety Guidance.

Background

In any place of work where lasers are in use, it is a legal responsibility to ensure that the risks to health arising from the use and reasonably foreseeable misuse of laser equipment are properly assessed. The University must take all steps, as far as is reasonably practicable, to ensure that these risks are either eliminated or, where this is not reasonably practicable, minimised to an acceptable level. 

Within the University, lasers are classified as unrestricted lasers or restricted lasers depending on the risks they expose people to.  They can range from relatively benign low-powered laser pointers, to Class 4 research lasers with a nominal ocular hazard distance in excess of 20 kilometres.  

The University has a duty of care to ensure that people are not harmed or affected by the University’s activities.  With regards to lasers, having safer people, safer equipment, and safer workplaces will ensure that maximum permissible exposure limits for personnel are not exceeded. 

Where applicable, workplaces must comply with other University standards and protocols (including, but not limited to: machinery and plant protocols, lone work protocols, and work after normal working hours protocols). 

Standard

People

1. All members of the University who use lasers are to comply with the University Laser Safety Protocol.

2. People associated with restricted lasers must be aware of their roles and responsibilities. 

3. People entering a workplace where restricted lasers are used must be inducted to a level that reflects their role, and the level of risk within the workplace. 

4. People using restricted lasers must be trained (be provided with the skills, capabilities and competencies) to a level that reflects their role and the level of risk associated with the laser being used. 

5. People must not use restricted lasers if they have not received the required training. 

6. Where training to operate restricted lasers is required, workplaces must maintain a record of training. 

7. People must not use restricted lasers if they are under the influence of, or are impaired by, alcohol, recreational drugs or medicines

8. People must not use any laser to dazzle, blind or distract other people

9. People using any laser must comply with applicable safe work instructions (SWI), and/or other applicable source of information that is needed to perform work safely.

10. People using any laser must wear the personal protective equipment (PPE) that is specified in applicable safe work instructions, and/or other applicable source of information

11. People using any laser must comply with any reasonable instruction from a supervisor.

12. People must not use any laser if they require supervision and a supervisor is not present.

Equipment

13. All lasers must be classified in accordance with AS/NZS IEC 60825.1

14. All requests to purchase, construct or otherwise obtain restricted lasers must be approved in writing by the Laser Safety Officer. 

15. Restricted lasers that have not been approved by the Laser Safety Officer must not be used.

16. All restricted lasers must be registered with the Laser Safety Officer. 

17. Where required, a risk assessment must be carried out to identify the risks associated with restricted lasers

18. Any controls identified in a risk assessment must be implemented so that the residual risk is as low as is reasonably practicable. 

19. Any laser related activities with a residual risk level greater than moderate must not proceed.

20. Lasers must be installed, checked, inspected, cleaned, maintained and adjusted in accordance with manufacturer's instructions

21. Where lasers and associated equipment require recorded scheduled servicing, maintenance activities must be recorded.

22. Defective lasers and associated equipment are to be taken out of service as soon as defects are identified. 

23. Lasers being decommissioned must be disposed of responsibly. 

Workplaces

24. Access to workplaces where restricted lasers are used must be controlled

25. Access points to workplaces where restricted lasers are used must be safeguarded by electrical interlocks or other safety devices. 

26. Where access points cannot be safeguarded by electrical interlocks or other safety devices (i.e. confocal microscopes laboratories), a risk assessment must be carried out in conjunction with the Laser Safety Officer to determine if protective controls are adequate.

27. Workplaces where restricted lasers are used must make safety information readily available and must display safe work instructions and/or appropriate safety signage.

28. Workplaces where restricted lasers are used must have provision for safeguarding specular reflectors and for providing protective eyeware at the point of entry.

29. When PPE cannot be worn to perform a task (i.e. looking into a microscope), a risk assessment must be carried out in conjunction with the University Safety Laser Officer to determine if protective controls are adequate.

30. As far as is reasonably practicable, workplaces in which lasers are used must maintain a satisfactory level of housekeeping. 

31. Where required, the worker must undergo vision health check, as outlined by Auckland Optometry Clinic.

32. Workplaces must have emergency response plans in place to deal with emergencies that are likely to occur.

33. Workplaces must report and record incidents as per University policy.

Report an incident

Definitions

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
  • 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.

Induction is a formal process to inform a person entering a workplace of local rules, procedures and safe work practices that will enable the person to safely carry out work, study or research. The level of the information provided may vary to cater for a person's role (visitor, student, contractor, staff member etc.) or the level of risk within a workplace.

Laser means any device that can be made to produce or amplify optical radiation primarily by the process of controlled stimulated emission. For University purposes, lasers are classified depending on the levels of risk they present to users and other persons:

  • Restricted lasers means high power lasers with such potential to cause harm that they need to be carefully controlled. For the purpose of this protocol, all high powered laser pointers and lasers that are classified as Class 3B or Class 4 in accordance with AS/NZS IEC 60825.1 are deemed to be restricted lasers.
  • Unrestricted lasers which means lasers which, used under normal operational conditions and without modification (e.g. using lenses to focus the beam) are considered to pose a low or negligible risk. For the purpose of this protocol, all lasers 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.

Laser safety officer (LSO): The laser safety officer is a competent person who is appointed by the Associate Director, Health, Safety and Wellbeing on behalf of the University. The LSO is required to be knowledgeable in the evaluation and control of laser hazards, and is responsible for overseeing the control of laser hazards and risk at the University. 

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 practicable. 

Nominal ocular hazard distance (NOHD): The minimum safe intrabeam viewing distance from the laser. 

Personal protective equipment (PPE) refers to anything used or worn by a person to minimise risk to the person's health or safety. PPE relevant to laser use includes appropriate clothing and safety equipment such as protective eyewear that is matched to the wavelength of the laser being used. 

Protocol: A system that explains how to manage a health and safety subject, consisting of a formal set of documents; standards, procedures, training matrices, guidance, forms, monitoring documents and frequently asked questions. 

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 within a workplace that uses lasers are: laser laboratory coordinator, laser supervisor, laser operator and laser user. 

Safe work instructions(s) are written instructions to inform users about 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.

Visitor refers to any person lawfully entering a workplace who is not authorised to use or operate the machinery or plant within.

Workplace is any physical location in which work-related activities are performed under the control of the University. 

Key relevant documents

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