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Lasers Factsheet


Lasers and laser systems are in use everyday by individuals in virtually all fields of occupation. Industry makes use of lasers in all kinds of consumer products, which utilized for their appropriate purpose do not pose a hazard to the public. Lasers however do present a very real danger in the research community when not used properly or when individuals do not use appropriate protective equipment to prevent injury from the laser light.

Classification of lasers relates to the potential for the laser beam to cause injury and not from any ancillary hazards that may be present with the laser system.

ANSI, OSHA, and the CDRH. classifications vary according to the class of laser. The following classifications are a general outline incorporating all three schemes. Specifics on the classifications may be found by referencing the standards and the regulations. These are available from the Department of Environmental Safety, Sustainability and Risk (ESSR) and the RSO.

Class I:

  1. Usually in the visible region;
  2. Not considered hazardous;
  3. Exempt from controls;
  4. In some cases, a higher class, such as III or IV, is enclosed and is classified as a Class I; however, during times of service or maintenance the classification may change to reflect the exposure to the Class III or IV;

Class II:

  1. Visible lasers emitting above the Class I level of power;
  2. Output power less than 1 mW;
  3. May produce an injury if stared at for longer than the aversion response time of 0.25 seconds, called a chronic viewing hazard;
  4. Will not produce a skin burn;

Class IIA:

  1. Not for continuous viewing longer than 1000 seconds;
  2. Visible light which can produce greater than Class I power;

Class IIIA:

  1. Can be an intrabeam viewing or chronic viewing hazard;
  2. Power level less than 5 mW CW;
  3. Can be invisible (ANSI) or visible (CDRH);

Class IIIB:

  1. Acute hazard to skin and eye from the direct beam;
  2. Visible or invisible;
  3. Power level less than 500 mW CW, 10 J/cm2 pulsed;
  4. Diffuse reflections may be a hazard if operation is at full power and viewing is close to the source of reflection;

Class IV:

  1. Acute hazard to skin and eye from direct and scattered light;
  2. Power levels exceed Class III levels;
  3. Fire hazard.

Applicable University Policy

VI-16.00(A) - UMD Policy on Occupational Exposure to Laser Light (Laser Safety Plan)

Applicable Standards

ANSI.Z136.1 - 2000 Safe Use of Lasers

Applicable Regulations

  • OSHA Pub. 8-1.7- OSHA Laser Safety Policies & Standards (Instructional Publication)
  • 29 CFR Part 100- Federal Laser Product Performance Standard. Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH)
  • 29 CFR 1910.132- Eye and Face Protection
  • 29 CFR 1910.269- Electric Power Generation

Summary of Requirements

Laser safety training, documentation, inventory, standard operating procedures (SOPs), inspections, and protective equipment are some of the standard requirements of the plan.


For users of Class III and IV lasers training is required. For all other classes of lasers it is recommended that users contact the Laser Safety Officer to discuss training. All employees should be provided with information and training regarding the hazards of the lasers in their work area. Employees should be informed of:

  1. Contents of the OSHA guidelines and its appendices;
  2. Location of availability of the LSP;
  3. Maximum Permissible Exposure Limits (MPEs) for ANSI standards and any recommended exposure limits for OSHA;
  4. Methods and observations used to detect the presence or release of laser light;
  5. Physical and health hazards of lasers in the work area;
  6. Measures employees can take to protect themselves from laser light including specific procedures (SOPs) to be used;
  7. Signs and symptoms associated with exposures to hazardous laser light used in the laboratory;
  8. The location of known reference material on the hazards, safe handling, storage, and disposal of lasers found in the laboratory.

The laboratory supervisor/principal investigator is responsible for training all laboratory workers on the specific operations, safety features, emergency procedures and SOPs which apply to their facility and laser(s) in use.


Reporting requirements are per the Laser Safety Plan and involve documentation of training and inventory of lasers by the principal investigator and/or lab supervisor.


The Laser Safety Officer conducts inspections of laser facilities in the presence of the principal investigator and/or lab supervisor. Inspection findings are forwarded to the investigator denoting areas of noncompliance with the plan.


Records of training and inventory must be kept by the investigator in each department and the Laser Safety Officer.

Written Program

The Laser Safety Plan constitutes the written program.

University Resources

Department of Environmental Safety, Sustainability and Risk (301) 405-3960
ESSR Fax No.    (301) 314-9294
ESSR Website:
Laser Safety Officer: (301) 405-3985

Written 5/98
Revised 5/03
Reviewed 4/05

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