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Laser Safety

A laser beam is electromagnetic radiation (as is the light emitted by a light bulb) and can be in the infrared, visible or ultraviolet regions of the spectrum. Lasers were first used in military applications and research but nowadays can be found in many industries e.g. medicine, the office and in the home.

The size of lasers range from the microscopic to the massive and the applications are very diverse with the damage caused by a laser dependent on the power and wavelength of the laser beam with the eyes and the skin the most at risk from damage by a beam.

In 2010 new legislation was introduced for the Control of Artificial Optical Radiation at Work (Regulations). The Regulations, as well as setting out a number of fundamentals, has basically re-enforced the need for controls which have always been the practice here at the University and which are embedded within the University's Safe Use of Lasers Policy Standard and associated Information Sheet.





The Laser Classification scheme, originally created through British Standard BS EN 60825-1, is essentially a manufacturing standard for laser products but which also supports laser safety. The Standard also has other parts in the 60825 series that cover specific applications and provide guidance to users.

Classifications are as follows:

Class 1 Safe for use under all reasonably anticipated conditions of use.
Class 1M As Class 1 but not safe when viewed with optical aids such as eye loupes or binoculars.
Class 1C Designed explicitly for contact application to the skin or non-ocular tissue e.g. hair removal products
Class 2 (Visible laser beams only). It is presumed that the human blink reflex will be sufficient to prevent damaging exposure, although prolonged viewing may be dangerous.
Class 2M As Class 2 but not safe when viewed with optical aids such as eye loupes or binoculars.
Class 3R More likely to cause harm to the eye than lower class lasers but do not need as many control measures as higher-class lasers.
Class 3B Eye damage likely to occur if the beam is viewed directly or from shiny reflections.
Class 4 Eye and skin damage likely from the main laser beam and reflected beams. They may also cause fires.


Further information on Laser use in general can be obtained from HSS. For specific help on use of Class 3b and Class 4 lasers please contact the University's Laser Safety Officer, Dr. Yanhua Hong at the School of Electronic Engineering.

Optical Radiation / Artificial Optical Radiation (AOR)

Optical radiation is another term for light, covering ultraviolet (UV) radiation, visible light, and infrared radiation. Any man-made source of light, whether visible or invisible, is termed artificial optical radiation (AOR).

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