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Home About Us Latest News Talking SCHMIDT about Laser Safety Tips

Talking SCHMIDT about Laser Safety Tips

In our latest episode of Talking SCHMIDT, Will and Ruser discuss a scene from the 2002 film Resident Evil in which several people get trapped in a hallway full of deadly lasers. Their first point of discussion: laser safety tips.

Because we know safety is important in any workplace (and particularly around lasers!) we wanted to dig a little deeper into those laser safety tips here. For more detailed information on laser safety, speak with your laser safety officer and/or review OSHA’s Guidelines for Laser Safety and Hazard Assessment.

CLASS I VS CLASS IV LASERS

Generally, there are four classes of lasers (though some classes have sub-classes). Class I lasers are your safest lasers. They either have an extremely weak laser beam and/or the laser beam is contained in a light-tight enclosure that keeps it from escaping. For example, see our GeoMARK Pro, GeoMARK Pro SM (pictured) and GeoMARK Eco Plus.

Class I lasers are safe to use in any working environment. Because the laser cannot reach anything outside of the enclosure, people around the laser do not need any safety equipment (e.g., safety goggles).
 

On the other hand, class IV lasers can be the most dangerous. When using a powerful laser and no enclosure – the laser is in an “open environment,” meaning there is nothing protecting you from the laser beam (see our GeoMARK Eco for an example). Although the laser may not be pointed in your direction, it can reflect off surfaces and move in unpredictable ways. If the beam reaches your eyes, a powerful enough laser can damage your retinas in as little as 250 milliseconds and possibly faster.

This can be faster than the time it takes to blink and look away. For this reason, everyone in the same room as a class IV laser should wear safety goggles during operation, even if they are not interacting with it. Additionally, signs should be posted in the room and at the entrance of the room, alerting people of the laser’s presence and advising them to wear appropriate protection.

Class II and class III lasers pose less danger than class IV lasers due to being less powerful. However, it is still best to avoid looking at the laser beam and to wear safety goggles during operation if the laser is not completely inside an enclosure.

LASER SAFETY GOGGLES

As mentioned above, some lasers are so powerful, they can damage your eyes before your body’s blink reflex kicks in. This is why safety goggles are important. However, you can’t wear just any kind of safety goggles. A laser can operate at a number of different wavelengths and you need to ensure the goggles you are wearing blocks the wavelength of the laser.

DO NOT TOUCH THE LASER BEAM

This seems like one of the more obvious laser safety tips, but it is important enough for it to be said: do not touch the laser beam. No matter how safe you may think the laser is, keep your hands and other body parts away from the beam. Depending on the laser, touching the beam may lead to experiencing anything between slight discomfort to third-degree burns.

Additionally, do not touch anything the laser is marking or cutting while it is on. The object can get very hot during the marking or cutting process and may remain hot for some time after the process is over.

Generally, this is not a problem for quick marks with a laser marking machine. However, we recommend being cautious regardless.

FOR ADDITIONAL LASER SAFETY TIPS

To reiterate, this is not a complete guide to laser safety. You can get additional and more detailed information in OSHA’s Guidelines for Laser Safety and Hazard Assessment. The purpose of this article is to help you understand that safety should be practiced whenever you are operating a laser (or near a laser) and to help you understand the kinds of precautions you should take.

Lasers are a great technology that can help you make things that are important, necessary, and beautiful. However, do not let the possibilities of a laser distract you from putting safety first.