Laser Safety

Laser Safety Classification, Equipment, and Inspection

Cal OSHA's Construction Safety Orders (Title 8, Nonionizing Radiation 1801) require that individuals working with/around lasers be aware of the risks and hazards, and receive proper training.

Due to the potential hazards of laser technology used on campus, the University of San Francisco requires that those expected to work with or around lasers receive proper training. The safe use of laser technology begins with proper labeling on equipment and around hazardous areas. Laser devices must be properly labeled, machines should be regularly inspected to ensure that they operate as designed and specified, and proper personnel safety equipment should be available. 

In addition, adhering to the Laser Safety requirements involves:

  • Safety training as requested and required.
  • The determination of appropriate signage and protective equipment.
  • The registration of class IIIa, IIIb, and IV lasers.
  • The inspection of laser equipment (both machinery and safety equipment).
  • The review of laser facility designs.
  • The investigation of incidents and injuries.
  • A regular audit inspection and ongoing compliance with the aforementioned requirements.

The use of all Hazard Class lasers (ie. IIIa, IIIb, and IV) must be approved by the Environmental Health & Safety Office (EH&S) before installation or use. In addition, any acquisition, transfer, and/or removal of Hazard Class lasers must be made known to the Environmental Health and Safety Office. Laser devices which are assembled at the University of San Francisco may receive a hazard evaluation by contacting the EH&S Office. 

Laser devices which require registration include, but are not limited to:

  • Optical bench-top lasers.
  • Light sources for microscopy and measurements.
  • Medical devices which utilize laser technology.

Most Class I laser devices do NOT require registration. Examples of Class 1 laser devices include:

  • laser printers
  • imaging devices
  • telecom devices

Examples of Class 1 laser devices that MUST be registered with the EH&S Office include:

  • cell sorters
  • particle counters

...or any other scientific device with a laser cavity accessible by the user. These laser devices must be registered to ensure that safety interlocks and/or protective optical filters may be checked for efficacy. Schedule an inspection with EH&S regarding laser safety if your equipment includes any of the following:

  • protective laser housing
  • safety interlocks
  • labeling
  • hazard posting
  • indicators
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • and other ancillary hazards

Laser Pointers

Laser Pointers are sometimes used on campus during presentations. Avoid pointing the laser into your own eyes or others' eyes, regardless of the Hazard Classification as lasers of any power level can damage eyes. Also note that many Laser Pointer devices are now classified as Hazard Class IIIa due to the increased power output from special diodes which produce red light wavelengths that the eye is very sensitive to. While these devices DO NOT require registration with EH&S, it is advisable to check for the presence of the required label which includes:

  • the laser hazard symbol
  • the laser classification
  • the laser wavelength
  • the maximum laser output