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Environmental Health and Safety

Laser Safety Manual


In the continuing effort to provide a safe and healthful workplace that is free from recognized occupational and environmental hazards, the Environmental Health & Safety Office (EH&S) has developed this Laser Safety Manual. This manual includes requirements for personnel using or observing lasers, laser devices and laser facilities at the University of North Florida (UNF). This program was developed in compliance with the most recent editions of the Florida Administrative Code 64E-4.001, ANSI Z136.1, ANSI Z136.5 and ANSI Z136.6. 


Class 1: Any laser or laser system meeting the standards as defined in 64E-4.002(10), FAC and 64E-4.002(11), FAC; that poses no threat of biological damage. 

Class 1M: Any laser or Laser system considered to be incapable of producing hazardous exposure conditions during normal operations unless the beam is viewed with an optical instrument such as an eye-loop (diverging beam) or a telescope (collimated beam), and is exempt from any control measures other than to prevent potentially hazardous optically aided viewing; and is exempt from other forms of surveillance. 

Class 2: Any laser meeting the standards as defined in 64E-4.002(12), FAC. A low power visible light laser or laser system which emits radiant power in the visible portion of the spectrum (400-700 nm) exceeding Class I for the maximum duration inherent in the design or intended use of the laser, but not exceeding 1 mW or, in the case of repetitively pulsed laser, not exceeding a Class I accessible emission limit for a 0.25 second (human aversion response) exposure limit. 

Class 2M: A class 2M laser system emits in the visible portion of the spectrum (400-700 nm), and eye protection is normally afforded by the human aversion response (0.25 second) for un-aided viewing. However, Class 2M is potentially hazardous if viewed with certain optical aids. 

Class 3R: Any laser meeting the standards as defined in 64E-4.002(13), FAC. A medium power laser or laser system which has an output power between one and five times the Class 1 accessible emission limits for wavelengths less than 0.4 micrometers or greater than 0.7 micrometers, or the Class 2 accessible emission levels for wavelengths greater than 0.4 micrometers and less than 0.7 micrometers. 

Class 3B: A medium power laser or laser system which has an output power greater than that defined for Class 3R, but having less than 0.5 W for all continuous wave laser types for periods greater than or equal to 0.25 seconds or having levels less than 10 J/cm-2 for exposures less than 0.25 seconds.  Presents a potential eye hazard for intra-beam or specular conditions. 

Class 4: Any laser or laser system meeting the standards as defined in 64E-4.002(14), FAC. A high-powered laser or laser system (visible or invisible) that requires control measures to prevent exposure to the eye and skin from the direct (intrabeam) and reflected (diffused) beam conditions. Class 4 lasers and laser systems also have the potential for creating a fire (ignition) and byproduct emissions (airborne contaminants) from target or process materials (hazardous plasma radiation). 


Principal Investigator  

The Principal Investigator (PI) is responsible for the safe use of lasers in the laboratory. The PI must notify EH&S upon purchase or acquisition of a class 3B or 4 laser device to register the device. The PI must notify EH&S of any changes in the operational status, such as location changes and or modifications to any laser equipment that may change the classification number or use. The PI may assign each laser facility a Laboratory Laser Safety Officer (LLSO), who has the proper training and background to perform this function or the PI will be the default LLSO. The LLSO is responsible for: 

  • Ensuring the proper registration through EH&S of all class 3B and 4 lasers and personnel who will operate the lasers.
  • Ensuring that all personnel have completed the Basic Laser Safety Training through EH&S.
  • Developing, maintaining, and updating, as needed, all operating, alignment, and emergency procedures (SOP's) for the lasers and facility under the LLSO's control. 
  • Acting as the point of contact for EH&S. 
  • Enforcing the safety standards defined in this UNF Laser Safety Manual.
  • Supervising all spectators, visitors and personnel with access to the facility to ensure against unauthorized entrance or accidental exposure to laser radiation. 
  • Recommending to all new personnel that a baseline eye exam be taken prior to use or operation of a registered laser. 
  • Updating all records to reflect changes in use, personnel or equipment by contacting EH&S. 
  • Reporting all incidents involving safety, exposures or injury to EH&S.
  • Ensuring that all personal protective equipment is properly maintained. 

Laser Operators 

The individual user (laser operator) shall observe all safety precautions and operating procedures while using class 3R, 3B or 4 lasers and shall inform the PI, LLSO and EH&S of any apparent safety problems associated with the use of the laser. The laser operator shall be responsible for: 

  • Following laboratory administrative, alignment, and SOP's while operating lasers and reading safety instructions in the laser equipment operator's manuals.
  • Keeping the PI fully informed of any departure from established safety or standard operating procedures. This includes notification of an exposure incident. 
  • Attending UNF’s Basic Laser Safety Training Course.
  • Reporting accidents, exposures and injuries to the PI, LLSO or supervisor.  

Environmental Health & Safety 

EH&S is the designated Laser Safety Officer (LSO) at UNF. The LSO has jurisdiction over all aspects of hazard prevention and control of laser radiation and has the authority to suspend any operation that constitutes a radiation health hazard to the equipment operators, other personnel, students or the general public. The University LSO will: 

  • Conduct annual lab inspections to ensure that safety requirements are followed. 
  • Authorize laser lab use areas. 
  • Provide assistance in evaluating and controlling hazards. 
  • Update the UNF Laser Safety Manual, when necessary. 
  • Maintain all records of lasers and laser operators.
  • Ensure the provision of laser safety training for personnel who are assigned to an area where lasers are operated. 
  • Participate in accident investigations involving lasers. 
  • Determine and approve all policies regarding the laser safety program. 
  • Review and approve all laser SOP's submitted by PI’s. 
  • Revoke operator's privilege in case of serious and repeated violations of regulations. 
  • Prescribe special conditions, as may be necessary, such as additional training and/or instructions, designated or limited use areas, etc. 
  • Review laser regulations to determine their applicability and impact on this Manual. 


All class 3B and 4 lasers shall be properly registered with EH&S prior to installation or use. EH&S must register the device with Florida Department of Health, Bureau of Radiation Control (FDHBRC) prior to installation and use. Register each device by completing the Laser Device Registration form provided in the Appendix and returning it to EH&S for approval and submission to FDHBRC. 

All laser users must be registered with EH&S prior to using any laser. Registration is accomplished by the PI providing EH&S with the names and work locations of these individuals.  

All newly registered lasers and facilities must be inspected and approved for operation by EH&S prior to laser operation.  

Exposure Incidents 

If an exposure incident occurs, the PI, LLSO or the person operating the laser must notify EH&S. 

If the incident causes an injury or could potentially have caused an injury, the person or persons who have received an exposure should inform their supervisor, LLSO or PI and have an eye/skin exam performed, if necessary. 

EH&S will investigate all incidents and an incident report will be completed/submitted by the PI, LLSO or lab supervisor. 

Personal Protective Equipment 

Eye Protection: The PI or LLSO who operate or supervise the operation of a laser are responsible for determining the need for laser eye protection for a particular laser. If required, eye protection will be provided for employees, students and visitors to the area. EH&S can provide assistance in eyewear selection. 

Body Protection: Protective gloves and clothing must be worn during the operation of Class 4 lasers, where the possibility exists for laser injury to parts of the body other than the eyes. 

Posting Laser Use Areas 

All laser use areas containing Class 3 or greater lasers shall be posted with the appropriate signs. 

Class 1 and Class 2 laser facilities are not required to be posted. Use the following for posting of Class 3 and Class 4 lasers:

  • Facilities containing Class 3R, 3B and 4 lasers shall have postings at every entrance which contain the text:  
  • Facilities containing Class 4 lasers shall have postings at every entrance, which contain the text: 
  • Class 4 lasers require Laser Activation Warning Lights outside the lab. 
  • Class 4 lasers may also require entryway interlock. Consult with EH&S for details  

General Laser Safety Rules

The general rules below are to be followed by all laser users and spectators to ensure safety. 

  • The minimum laser radiant energy or laser power level required for the application should always be used. 
  • Emergency response procedures must be posted in plain view in all laser facilities. 
  • All facilities must have an openly available set of operating procedures (SOP's) for each individual laser that have been approved by EH&S.
  • A qualified manufacturer’s technician must perform servicing for a laser or laser system.
  • Lasers are to be operated in well-lit areas, to minimize possible eye damage.
  • Flash lamps used with solid state lasers should be shielded.
  • Never leave an operating laser unattended and never work alone in the facility, especially after normal working hours. 

To minimize direct eye exposure observe these precautions: 

  • Do not intentionally look directly into laser beam or at specular reflection, regardless of its power. 
  • Minimize specular reflection.
  • Terminate beam path at end of its useful path. 
  • Clearly identify the beam path(s) and ensure that they do not cross populated areas or traffic paths.
  • Locate the beam path at a point other than eye level when standing or when sitting at a desk. 
  • Orient the laser so that the beam is not directed toward entry doors, windows or aisles. 
  • Securely mount laser systems on a stable platform to maintain the beam in a fixed position during operation and limit beam traverse during adjustments and alignments. 
  • Jewelry must not be worn in a controlled laser area. 
  • Visual alignment of laser systems while the laser is operating should not be attempted. If possible, lasers should be powered down during alignment.  

Specific Safety Requirements 

Each laser and laser facility must be designed to ensure that maximum protection is afforded to the operator and others in the facility. Control measures shall be devised and taken to ensure minimal exposure to the eyes and skin from hazardous laser radiation.

Class 1 Lasers 

  • Class 1 lasers require no controls, though it is advisable not to expose the eyes to direct Class 1 laser radiation.  
  • If the manufacturer has not labeled the laser, attach a label on the laser with its classification and relevant warning information. 

Class 2 and 2M Lasers 

Class 2 lasers require an affixed housing or control panel and appropriate warning labels. These labels shall include "Caution- AVOID EXPOSURE" label near the aperture and a Class 2 warning logo for class 2 pulse lasers. 

Class 3R, 3B and Class 4 Lasers 

A designated laser control area must be established for all class 3B and 4 lasers and laser facilities and must meet the following criteria: 

  • The LSO may establish a Nominal Hazard Zone (NHZ) within the laser control area. 
  • Each area must be under the direct supervision of the PI or LLSO. 
  • Access to the area must be supervised. The entrance to the doors must be closed at all times. There should be a barrier between the door and laser area. 
  • The area must have appropriate signs posted.
  • All potentially hazardous beams in the area must be terminated in an appropriate beam stop.  
  • A panic button or control-disconnect switch must be available to deactivate the laser in the event of an emergency.
  • All optical paths that can allow the beam to exit the control area must be covered or restricted in a manner that prevents transmission of laser radiation. 
  • If a beam is to exit the controlled area, the PI or LLSO shall ensure the beam path is limited to controlled air space.
  • All class 3B and 4 lasers or laser systems used outdoors shall comply with the most current versions of ANSI Z136.1, ANSI Z136.5 and ANSI Z136.6, FAA Order 7400.2 and FAC 64E-4.001.  The LSO must conduct a Hazard Analysis to determine the appropriate control measures, protective equipment, signage and training.

All Class 3R, 3B and Class 4 lasers require the follow controls:

  • Protective eyewear designed for the specific laser being used must be worn by all individuals having access to Class 3R, 3B, or 4 laser radiation during operation. Protective gloves, clothing and shields must also be worn, as appropriate, when the possibility exists for laser injury to parts of the body other than the eyes. 
  • All protective housings must remain in place to prevent exposure from any source other than the defined aperture. 
  • The protective housing must be interlocked to prevent exposure of personnel to unnecessary laser radiation. Interlocks must be checked during routine inspections to ensure they are functioning properly. The interlock must not be overridden during normal operation. 
  • Laser interlocks shall be designed to prevent firing of the laser. This shall be accomplished by an interlock that disables the power supply or interrupts the beam (for example, shutters). Class 3B and 4 must be provided with a key-switch interlock that, when removed, prevents the operation of the laser, and disables the power supply.  
  • Adjustments or servicing shall not cause an interlock to become inoperative or allow radiation outside the protective housing unless a laser control area is established.  • If interlocks must be bypassed during maintenance, a temporary Laser Control Area must be established. 
  • A master switch (either a key or coded access) must be provided that, when removed, must make the laser inoperable. Authority for access to the master switch must be with the PI and/or the LLSO. 
  • Since viewing portals and collecting optics may increase the hazards, all devices must incorporate a means to maintain laser radiation emitted through them at or below safe levels. The PI or LLSO shall determine the potential hazard and take proper safety measures.
  • Beam stops or attenuators must be permanently attached and capable of preventing output emission when the laser is on standby. 
  • If at all possible, the interaction area, (i.e. the area where the primary beam or secondary beam irradiates the sample material), should be enclosed and equipped with a safety interlock so that the laser cannot be operated unless the interlock is in place.  
  • All Class 4 lasers with exposed beam paths should be fired remotely.  
  • All lasers must have an "Avoid Exposure" label near the aperture, a warning label on the laser in accordance with Control of Non-ionizing Radiation Hazards, Chapter 64E-4.008, FAC, and warnings posted in or around the laser facility. 
  • Disconnection of fiber optics must take place in a laser-controlled area. 
  • If any engineering controls listed above cannot be accomplished, or will impede the nature of the research, administrative controls should be formulated by the PI and LLSO and submitted to EH&S for approval. 
  • Class 4 lasers require Laser Activation Warning Lights outside the lab. 
  • Class 4 Lasers may also require entryway interlock. Consult with EH&S for details. 

Emergency Response Procedures for Injuries Caused by Laser Radiation

Response during normal working hours

  • Call the University Police at 911 or 620-2800 (from a campus phone) and request assistance. Describe to the dispatcher the exact location where you and the injured person will be when the assistance arrives.
  • Report the incident to EH&S at 620-2019 as soon as possible.

Response after normal working hours 

  • If an incident occurs after normal working hours, call the University Police at 911 or 620-2800 (from a campus phone) with the following information: 
    • Your name and if assistance is required.
    • Location, building name and room number where the injured person is located. 
    • The name of the injured person and any symptoms noted. 
    • The exact location where you and the injured person will meet the emergency responder. 
    • Ask the University Police to contact someone from EH&S as soon as possible.

Controlling Associated Non-Beam Hazards 

Many Non-Beam hazards such as chemical, biological and physical hazards can be found in the laser area that must also be adequately addressed in the SOP and appropriately controlled.

Electrical Equipment and Systems 

  • Always be aware of the high risk of injury and fire during laser operations because of the presence of electrical power sources. 
  • The installation, operation, and maintenance of electrical equipment and systems must conform to standards stated in the Florida Building Code and the National Electric Code (NFPA 70-2002). Contact EH&S for assistance. 


  • Adequate lighting is necessary in controlled areas. 
  • If lights are extinguished during laser operation, provide control switches in convenient locations or install a radio-controlled switch.
  • Luminescent strips/tape should be used to identify table and equipment corners, switch locations, aisles, etc. 
  • When ambient light is not sufficient for safe egress from a laser area during an electrical power failure, install emergency lighting. 
  • Ionizing and Non-ionizing Radiation 
  • A laser operation may involve ionizing radiation that originates from the presence of radioactive materials or the use of electrical power in excess of 15kV. 
  • If radioactive material is present in the laser system, "Caution- Radioactive Material" signs must be prominently displayed. If X-rays are generated a "Caution-X-Rays" sign must be posted. 
  • Ultraviolet (UV) and visible radiation emitted from laser discharge tubes and pump lamps shall be suitably shielded so that personnel exposure limits do not lead to photo dermatitis or photokerititis. 
  • Microwave and radio frequency (RF) fields may be generated by laser systems or ancillary equipment. 
  • Contact EH&S for evaluation of these hazards. 

Hazardous Materials 

  • Bring into the laser area only those hazardous materials that are essential for the operation or experiment. 
  • All hazardous materials must be properly used, stored and controlled. Consult Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and EH&S for information. 
  • Do not allow laser beams and strong reflections to impinge on combustible materials, explosives, highly flammable liquids or gases or substances that decompose into toxic products under elevated temperatures, without providing adequate controls. 
  • Conduct literature searches for tests that establish the effects of beam interactions with hazardous materials. Findings can be used to determine safe parameters for laser operation. 
  • Dyes and Solutions 
  • Dye lasers normally use a lasing medium composed of complex fluorescent organic dye dissolved in an organic solvent. These dyes vary greatly in toxicity, flammability, mutagenicity, and potential carcinogenicity. 
  • All dyes must be treated as hazardous chemicals. Most solvents suitable for dye solutions are flammable and toxic by inhalation and/or skin absorption. 
  • Obtain SDS sheets from the manufacturer for all dyes and solvents. 
  • Use and store all dyes and solvents in accordance with SDS sheets. 
  • Prepare and handle dye-solutions inside a chemical fume hood. 
  • Wear a lab coat, eye protection, and gloves. 
  • Pressure test all dye laser components before using dye solutions. Pay close attention to tubing connections. 
  • Install spill pans under pumps and reservoirs.
  • Keep dye-mixing areas clean. 

Converting to a Class 1 Enclosure 

Any laser or laser system can be converted to a Class 1 enclosed laser by including all of the following controls in the laser system design. These controls will effectively enclose the laser, thus preventing personnel contact with emitted radiation while permitting unrestricted access into the area.

Protective Housing

  • House the laser system within a protective enclosure to prevent the escape of laser radiation above the maximum permissible exposure (MPE).
  • The protective housing must prevent personnel access to the laser system during normal operations.  
  • Personnel entering the enclosure to perform maintenance or adjustments must be made aware of the higher risk laser class.

Safety Interlocks

  • Install safety interlocks wherever the protective enclosure can be opened, removed or displaced. 
  • When activated, these interlocks must prevent a beam with radiant energy above the maximum permissible exposure (MPE) from leaving the laser or lasing system. 
  • Service adjustments or maintenance work performed on the laser system must not render the interlocks inoperative or cause exposure levels outside the enclosure to exceed the MPE, unless work is performed in a laser area with limited access and appropriate safeguards. 

Fail-Safe Design

  • The protective enclosure and the laser system must be designed and fabricated so that if a failure occurs, the system will continue to meet the requirements for an enclosed laser operation. 
  • Modifications to commercial laser systems must be evaluated. Contact EH&S for an evaluation. If modifications decrease the safety controls, a revised SOP will be required. 

Attenuated Viewing Window

Use viewing windows containing a suitable filter material that will attenuate the transmitted laser radiation to levels below the MPE under all conditions of operation. 

Warning Signs and Labels 

  • Label the enclosure with "Caution-Enclosed Laser" signs. 
  • Attach a label directly to the laser that gives the laser classification in the absence of an enclosure. Make sure that the laser label can immediately be seen when the enclosure is opened.


1. American National Standards Institute, Inc., American National Standards for the Safe Use of Lasers, Z136.1-2014 2. American National Standards Institute, Inc. American National Standard for Safe Use of Lasers in Educational Institutions, Z136.5-2009 3. Florida Administrative Code, Control of Non-Ionizing Radiation Hazards, Chapter 64-E4.001 4. US Code of Federal Regulations: 29 CFR Part 1040.10, Laser Products