R. James Rockwell, Jr.
Rockwell Laser Industries
The conditions under which
the laser is used, the level of safety training of individuals using the
laser, and other environmental and personnel factors are important
considerations in determining the full extent of laser safety control
measures and an overall safety program.
require informed judgments to be made by trained persons who have been
authorized by the facility management to conduct such duties. The major
responsibility for such judgments has been assigned to a person with the
requisite authority and responsibility, namely the Laser Safety Officer
An individual shall be
designated the Laser Safety Officer with the authority and
responsibility to monitor and enforce the control of laser hazards and to
effect the knowledgeable evaluation and control of laser hazards.
Throughout the body of the ANSI Z136.1 standard it is indicated that
wherever duties or responsibilities of the LSO are specified, it means
that the LSO either performs the stated task or ensures that the task
The key element in the
overall laser safety program is the Laser Safety Officer. The LSO is an
individual designated by management who has the responsibility and
authority to manage the overall laser safety program. The Laser Safety
Officer must ensure that all employees who operate, maintain, or service
laser products are properly trained. The Laser Safety Officer is also
responsible for establishing, monitoring, and enforcing laser controls, as
well as evaluating laser hazards.
The following are a few key
LSO program factors:
Depending on the
extent and number of laser installations, the position of LSO may
or may not be a full time assignment.
In some instances,
designation of an LSO may not be required; for example: operation
and maintenance of Class 1 and Class 2 lasers and laser systems
normally do not require the designation of an LSO. However, under
some circumstances, it may be necessary to designate an LSO. For
example, if service is performed on a laser system having an
embedded Class 3a, Class 3b, or Class 4 laser or laser system.
In some instances,
such as servicing embedded lasers, the designation of an LSO may
be the responsibility of the organization requiring access to the
embedded laser or laser system, such as the service company or
There shall be a
designated LSO for all circumstances of operation, maintenance,
and service of a Class 3b or Class 4 laser or laser system, and
there should be a designated LSO for Class 3a lasers and laser
Laser Safety Officer
The ANSI Z136.1 standard
indicates the following as key LSO responsibilities:
The Laser Safety Officer shall classify, or verify classifications
of, lasers and laser systems used under the LSO's jurisdiction.
The Laser Safety Officer shall be responsible for hazard
evaluation of laser work areas, including the establishment of
Nominal Hazard Zones (NHZ)
The Laser Safety Officer shall be responsible for assuring that
the prescribed control measures are in effect, recommending or
approving substitute or alternate control measures when the
primary ones are not feasible or practical, and periodically
auditing the functionality of those control measures in use.
This shall include, but not be limited to, such actions as
establishing an NHZ, approving standard operating procedures
(SOPs), avoiding unnecessary or duplicate controls, selecting
alternate controls, conducting periodic facility and equipment
audits, and training.
The Laser Safety Officer shall approve SOPs, alignment procedures,
and other procedures that may be part of the requirements for
administrative and procedural controls.
The Laser Safety Officer shall recommend or approve protective
equipment i.e., eyewear, clothing, barriers, screens, etc., as may
be required to assure personnel safety. The LSO shall assure that
protective equipment is audited periodically to ensure proper
Labels. The Laser Safety Officer shall approve the wording
on area signs and equipment labels.
Equipment. The Laser Safety Officer shall approve laser
installation facilities and laser equipment prior to use. This
also applies to modification of existing facilities or equipment.
Audits. The Laser Safety Officer shall ensure that the
safety features of the laser installation facilities and laser
equipment are audited periodically to assure proper operation.
The Laser Safety Officer shall assure that adequate safety
education and training are provided to laser area personnel.
The Laser Safety Officer shall determine the personnel categories
for medical surveillance.
Laser Safety Officer
Who makes the
"best" Laser Safety Officer? That question is being asked almost
every time someone "new" enters the laser field. The
"best" LSO? It’s like asking who makes the best traffic cop,
best mathematician, best teacher, best politician, best organizer, etc.
All of these qualities are important, you see.
Perhaps one can learn by
sampling the background of some of the more experienced LSO’s in the
business today. That list includes engineers of all specialties (e.g.,
electrical, metallurgical, etc.), biophysicists, surgical nurses, clinical
engineers, industrial hygienists, radiation physicists, laser technicians,
safety engineers, hospital administrators, shop foremen, etc. The list
goes on and on.
Is there a common thread
that ties all of these seemingly unrelated specialties together? What are
the most important factors that make an individual "the best" as
a Laser Safety Officer? From the broad-based list, it would certainly seem
that educational specialty or an academic degree is NOT the common thread.
If not, what is?
Perhaps it is the simple
fact that "The Boss" said, "Your it! You have just become
the LSO." This is probably closer to actual fact than all of the
arguments regarding background or academic specialty. Most of those
currently serving as an Laser Safety Officers probably said, "I will
do it" while most of the others begged off, claiming they already had
too much to do, anyway.
Is something that simple
the common thread? It seems that the desire to do the job is
foremost no matter what the job or the background. There must be some
reason that "The Boss" asked that person, anyway. Perhaps it was
their ability to understand all of the technical jargon. But, remember
that some are simply not at home with MPE’s, NHZ’s, OD’s, AEL’s
and all of the other "laser safety alphabet soup" of the ANSI
Standards. Maybe the individual impressed "The Boss" with their
ability to get things done and to motivate people to do the things asked
of them. Maybe the person expressed sincere concerns about safety using
lasers. In short, maybe the selection is based on the fact that this
individual had the intangible quality called leadership. In
management jargon, they showed the ability to manage people.
Is "the best"
Laser Safety Officer simply an individual with a sincere concern about
laser safety, who said yes when nobody else would and happens to be a good
"people person"? Obviously there is a bit more to being an Laser
Safety Officer, but these qualities can carry the inventive LSO a long
way. But that’s not the whole story.
The singularly most
important factor in having a successful Laser Safety Officer is the level
of authority extended to that person by the facility management. The ANSI
Z-136.1 standard is very specific in this regard. In that document, the
Laser Safety Officer is defined as: "One who has the authority to
monitor and enforce the control of laser hazards and effect the
knowledgeable evaluation and control of laser hazards." Note that it
did not say, do the knowledgeable evaluation, but rather effect
the knowledgeable evaluation.
In standards lingo, this
means that the Laser Safety Officer need not be a technical wizard. The
LSO has been given license to seek the assistance of others who may more
completely understand the mathematical sophistication of MPE, NHZ and OD
calculations. The key factor is that the Laser Safety Officer needs the
skills to implement a laser safety control program using the results of
such analytical efforts and be given the authority to make the program
work. A Laser Safety Officer without stated authority is like a swimmer
without water. It’s hard to make a big splash! In fact, it's impossible!
What does this all mean to
the new laser user? Who should be chosen as the Laser Safety Officer? What
are the keys to a successful laser safety program? Well, here are a few
First, establish a
"laser safety" policy. This could be as simple as
stating that the facility will "adopt" the ANSI Z-136
standard. Management must make it abundantly clear that the LSO
has the authority to enforce the adopted policy.
The Laser Safety
Officer can be a person with most any educational background.
Experience suggests, however, that an understanding of the uses of
the laser is essential. In industry, those with an industrial
hygiene background seem ideally suited as regards educational
background. In medicine, a clinical engineer is often selected.
Note that a chief laser scientist or laser surgeon should not be
appointed the LSO. That would be the same as making a race driver
the traffic cop.
Respect is a major
factor in the success of the Laser Safety Officer to do the job.
It is essential to choose as the LSO an individual who will have
the respect of those working with lasers. None the less, the Laser
Safety Officer should always keep in mind that authority is given,
but respect is earned.
The Laser Safety
Officer is viewed by some, perhaps, as the "Photon Cop."
Well, if this is what it takes to save eyesight or prevent
electrocutions, then it must be. The Laser Safety Officer cannot
be shy about enforcing policy.
A little knowledge,
they say, is a dangerous thing. The Laser Safety Officer must be
given every opportunity for self-improvement. Attendance at laser
safety short courses is essential. Since the laser field changes
at a very fast pace, refresher training and advanced level courses
are strongly recommended on at least a two or three year basis.
"tools of the trade." Subscriptions to the major laser
magazines, attendance to at least one major laser meeting each
year, membership in laser organizations, providing computer based
software for laser databases and/or computations, etc. All of
these aid in understanding and effecting the Laser Safety Officer’s
tasks in the most efficient way.
Provide aids for
internal educational programs. Videotapes, slide sets, books,
training texts, etc. are all required for the Laser Safety Officer
to effectively provide training.
Don’t be penny
wise and pound-foolish. It takes financial resources to affect a
sound safety program. Resources are needed for equipment,
training, information, communication, motivation and staffing. It
shouldn’t take much to compare the six-figure costs of only one
laser accident to the five figure costs of running a meaningful
laser control program to realize how to save money for the
Who makes the
"best" Laser Safety Officer? It should be an individual who has
a stated commitment to safety. The keystone to the Laser
Safety Officer’s motivation should be
the desire to have all who work with lasers do so without injury. That can
be almost anyone, I would hope!
Laser Safety Officer Duties
The LSO duties include laser
classification, evaluation of Maximum Permissible Exposure
(MPE), Accessible Emission Limits (AEL) for specific laser
classes, and Nominal Hazard Zones (NHZ), inspection
and audits, approval of the laser Standard Operating
Procedures (SOP), recommendation of protective equipment,
specification of area warning signs, and consultation
services. Detailed Laser Safety Officer duties are listed below in
According to the ANSI
standard For the Safe Use of Lasers (ANSI Z136.1), the
designation of a Laser Safety Officer is generally not required for
operation of a Class 2 or Class 3a laser or laser system. Nor is a Laser
Safety Officer usually required if maintenance and service are limited to
Class 1 and Class 2 laser systems that do not contain enclosed lasers
rated higher than Class 3a. If, however, service is performed on a laser
product with an enclosed Class 3b or Class 4 laser, it is necessary to
designate an LSO.
In many cases, the Laser
Safety Officer may be either on the staff of a corporate industrial
hygiene or safety department or, sometimes, a laser engineer with safety
responsibility. Depending upon the size of the organization, the number
and types of lasers, and the extent of laser activity, the LSO may be a
full-time or a part-time duty. In some very large facilities, it may be
necessary for the Laser Safety Officer to appoint a deputy LSO, who
reports to the Laser Safety Officer on all laser safety matters. The
deputy LSO performs the duties of the Laser Safety Officer when that
person is absent. In some very large laser facilities, a laser safety
committee may be designated with members from each of the key organization
Other functions of the
Laser Safety Officer are to consult with design and develop staff for new
manufacturing procedures and equipment. In this way, safety considerations
can be addressed in the initial phases of new process development. By
involving the Laser Safety Officer at the early design and development
stages, safety requirements such as training, special protective
equipment, and special area design can be determined prior to the
introduction of new equipment into the work place.
The Laser Safety Officer
approves SOPs. The SOPs should be devised by those responsible for the
operation of the systems with the approval given by the LSO. It is
recommended that a written SOP be prepared for each laser system, and that
employees be required to sign a form stating that they have read and
understand the SOP. SOPs improve safety and eliminate uncertainty about
specific procedures. SOPs are especially valuable guides for new laser
Managers and Supervisors
It is the responsibility of
Appoint the Laser
Verify that all
appropriate controls are applied
Provide training to
all laser workers
It is the duty of managers
and supervisors to:
Maintain the names
and date of all persons trained and also inform the Laser Safety
Officer of training completions and requirements.
instructions and training materials on laser hazards and the
control of the hazards to all personnel working with lasers in
Not permit the
operation of lasers without adequate control of the hazards.
Work in conjunction
with the Laser Safety Officer regarding the qualifications of
Report any known or
suspected laser-related injury to the Laser Safety Officer.
Assist in obtaining
medical attention for those involved in a laser accident
system operation after consulting with the Laser Safety Officer.
meaningful SOPs have been prepared for the use of Class 3b and
Class 4 lasers (lower classes if deemed necessary by the Laser
Information on Laser Safety Officer duties
can be found in the following resources:
Standards Institute, American National Standard for the Safe
Use of Lasers: ANSI Z-136.1 (2000), Laser Institute of
America, Orlando, FL, 2000.
Robert J. Thomas,
Benjamin A. Rockwell, Wesley J. Marshall, Robert C. Aldrich,
Sheldon A. Zimmerman and R. James Rockwell, Jr., A procedure
for laser hazard classification under the Z136.1-2000 American
National Standard for the Safe Use of Lasers, J. of Laser
Appl., 14, N. 1, 57-66, Feb., 2002.
R. James Rockwell,
Jr., James F. Smith and Wm. J. Ertle, Playing it Safe with
Industrial Lasers, Photonics Spectra, Vol 29, No. 4,
pp:118-124, April, 1995
R. James Rockwell,
Jr., Laser Accidents: reviewing thirty years of incidents:
What are the concerns - old and new?, Journal of Laser
Applications, December, 1994
Rockwell, R. James,
Jr. and Moss, C.E., Optical Radiation Hazards of Laser
Welding Processes Part II: Carbon Dioxide Laser, The
Journal of The American Industrial Hygiene Association, Vol. 50,
No. 8, pp. 419-427, August, 1989.
DUTIES OF A LASER SAFETY OFFICER
- Laser operation
- Laser definitions
- Review of laser
- Eye and skin hazards of
direct and reflected beams
- Laser exposure criteria
- Hazard assessment (OD,
- Non-beam hazards:
electrical, fire, fumes, particles, etc.
|Laser Safety Standards
- Specific company laser
- ANSI Z136.1
- The Federal Laser Product
- OSHA laser regulations
- Applicable regional, state,
and local regulations
- Applicable international laser
- Reducing beam hazards
- Types/selection of eye
- Methods of electrical safety
- Methods for fume removal
- Methods to reduce fire hazards
- SOP for laser use
|Safety Methods and Procedures
- Beam alignment
- Barriers and other laser
- Beam measurements
- Laser system controls
- Laser area warning signs
- Entryway control options
- Control of unauthorized
- Training requirements for laser