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Spie Press Book

Laser Safety in the Lab
Author(s): Ken Barat
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Book Description

There is no more challenging setting for laser use than a research environment. In almost every other setting the laser controls count on engineering controls, and human exposure is kept to a minimum. In research, however, the user often manipulates the optical layout and thereby places him or herself in peril, but this does not mean that accidents and injury are unavoidable. On the contrary, laser accidents can be avoided by following a number of simple approaches. Laser Safety in the Lab provides the laser user and laser safety officer with practical guidelines from housekeeping to eyewear to on-the-job training.

Book Details

Date Published: 20 December 2012
Pages: 176
ISBN: 9780819488190
Volume: PM212

Table of Contents
SHOW Table of Contents | HIDE Table of Contents

Introduction
1 Hazard Classification
2 Regulatory Landscape
3 The Laser Safety Officer
4 Biological Effects
5 Hazard Evaluation-LSO-Users
6 Laser Safety Program & Controls
6.1 Basics of Color Image Acquisition
6.2 Quality and Information Content of Color Images
6.3 Administrative and Procedural Controls
7 Protective Eyewear
8 Nonclassical Lasers and Applications
8.1 Fiber Optics/Diodes
8.2 Laser Scanning Confocal Microscope
8.3 Outdoor Applications
8.4 Hand-Held Lasers (Pointers Plus)
9 Nonbeam Hazards
10 Life in the Laser Lab
11 Laser Accidents
12 Building a Laser Safety Culture
Appendix A Laser Safety from 30,000 feet
Appendix B Laser Basics Abridged
Appendix C Laser Calculation Hints
Appendix D Laser Safety Examples
Appendix E Glossary
Index
About the Author

Preface

In 1960 T. Maiman demonstrated the first laser (ruby rod). I am uncertain if he knew what an impact it would have on society and the research community. A technology once commonly said to be looking for an application has now found a place in all sectors of modern society. In particular, the laser has made a dramatic impact on scientific research.

Within a few years of the development of that first laser, the first reported eye injury by laser occurred. Even before then, it was clear to many that this new technology presented unique hazards, and product and user guidance was needed.

In 1973 the first American National Standard Institute Standard for the Safe Use of Lasers was published (ANSI Z136.1). From that year forward, attempts to develop laser safety procedures and devices have been in progress.

In addition to laying a foundation for laser safety, the goal of this text is to give the laser user a useful reference source for laser safety solutions in the research and development environment.

Special thanks to Dr. Robert Thomas, who kindly contributed Chapter 4: Biological Effects and Appendix B: Laser Calculation Hints. Robert is a physicist with the U.S. Army Research Lab., a well-known instructor for the Health Physics Society Professional Enrichment Program courses, the webmaster for Z136.org, and a fine gentleman.

I would be remiss if I did not thank the people at SPIE who have given me this opportunity - John Cain, Jane Lindelof, and Tim Lamkins. Sincere thanks to all I have encountered in my laser safety career - I feel each has enriched me.

There is no more challenging setting for laser use than a research environment. In almost every other setting the laser controls count on engineering controls, and human exposure is kept to a minimum, whereas in research the user often manipulates the optical layout and thereby places him or herself in peril. But this does not mean that accidents and injury are unavoidable. On the contrary, laser accidents can be avoided by following a number of simple approaches.

A laser user may ask "Why do lasers receive such special attention?" The chief reason is the optical gain of the eye for wavelengths of 400-1400 nm. The average spot size of an image focused onto a retina is 250 μm, while the retinal spot size for a laser beam between 400-1400 nm focused by the lens onto the retina is 20 μm; therefore, 1 mW is equal to 100 W=cm2 at the retina. A 1-W beam directed onto the retina is equal to 1,000,000 W=cm2, which is why even a 2-4 percent reflection from an optical component could be over the threshold and cause eye injury. This threshold is called the maximum permissible exposure (MPE).

If you are not familiar with terms such as continuous wave and pulsed laser, or with the basic properties of a laser, refer to Appendix A before going on with this text. Another option is to read SPIE's Field Guide to Lasers, which gives an excellent explanation of laser properties.

Ken Barat
Berkeley, California
October 2012


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