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Laser Safety

Introduction

LASER is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Lasers have a number of characteristics such as coherency and power density which makes them extremely useful in a wide range of applications. Within the University, applications of high powered lasers include use for cutting and welding, particle flow analysis, defect analysis by ultrasound, interferometry and sample preparation for mass spectrometry, ‘Radiation’ in the context of lasers is used as a shortening of electromagnetic radiation and should not be confused with ionising radiation produced from radioactive sources.

Lower powered lasers have a very wide range of applications and are often incorporated into equipment. They are found in common items such as laser printers, DVD players, levelling and measuring devices, laser pointers and digital scanners,

Higher powered lasers, notable those in classes 3B and 4, constitute potentially high hazards based upon their ability to permanently damage eyesight and skin. The University therefore has a Laser Safety policy (see links) that is implemented through the laser safety framework.

Laser Safety Framework

There is now a requirement for all high hazard work involving Class 3B and Class 4 lasers to be approved by the Ionising Radiation and Non Ionising Radiation (IRNIR) Committee. The following outlines the framework that you need to follow. Once a risk assessment has been completed, you will need to submit your risk assessment and supporting documentation to HSRadiation at warwick dot ac dot uk. Until you receive approval via the University Laser Safety Officer (on behalf of the IRNIR Committee), you will not be authorised to start work.

1. Register as a user

All users of lasers in classes 3B and 4 must be registered with the University Laser Safety Officer. The user registration form must be filled in and submitted.

2. Ensure that the laser you are using has been registered

Check that the class 3B or class 4 laser that you will be using is present on the list of registered lasers. If it is not, please use the laser registration form to provide details of the laser. Minor amendments to the submitted details about lasers can also be made using the minor amendment form.

3. Ensure the space is listed as High Hazard on the Hazard Management System

All spaces used for lasers must be registered on the Quemis Hazard Management System. Class 3B and Class 4 lasers would warrant the space to be classified as 'High Hazard'. Both the system and the Noticeboard on the door to the space should indicate a 'High Laser Hazard' and should contain brief details as to what type of laser is in use and the controls in place, including access restrictions where required. Check that the space is already registered as a high laser hazard and that the noticeboard is valid for your proposed work activity. If either the Quemis Hazard Management System or Noticeboard need to be changed to high hazard, then the space will need approval. The University Laser Safety Officer should be consulted in the first instance. Email HSRadiation at warwick dot ac dot uk for further advice.

4. Provide training to the end user

All users of class 3B or 4 lasers must attend safety training or demonstrate suitable prior experience The university recognises the need for training that is appropriate to the end user, and defines two levels of training:

(i) Basic laser safety awareness - suitable for all users of laser systems and application which do not involve any open beam work, design and building of lasers.

(ii) In-depth training about the hazards associated with laser applications and how they should be controlled. All those who do carry out open beam work , design and build lasers, or who supervise others in the user of lasers must attend a Laser Safety Officer training course delivered our approved supplier, Aurora.

Local practical training on the use of the specific system must also be provided by the your supervisor or the PI for the area.

5. Complete a laser risk assessment

The laser risk assessment form captures all of the potential hazards associated with use of the laser system. This will include consideration of the laser itself, the beam delivery, the laser process and the environment in which the laser is being used. Any open beam work required that could arise directly or indirectly will require a justification to be made in your risk assessment. Your risk assessment should cross-reference all associated documentation. Additional guidance about how to complete the laser risk assessment may be found on subsequent web pages.

6. Complete a Safe System of Work (SSoW)

A Safe System of Work provides a systematic procedure for how to work safely with the laser. It is often necessary to have several SSoWs to cover different aspects of the laser work. For instance, there will always be a SSoW to cover normal use of the system, but a second SSoW would be necessary to detail how to carry out open beam alignment. Further guidance about how to complete the laser SSoW form may be found on subsequent web pages. Your SSoW should be referenced from your risk assessment and included in your submission for approval.

7. Use of PPE as a control measure

Personal protective equipment, often in the form of laser safety goggles, should be the last control measure considered in a risk assessment. However, there are occasions when the only practical way of performing a particular procedure, such as beam alignment, will involve use of the correct type of laser safety goggles. Where they are identified as a control measure, calculations must be carried out to ensure that they offer the protection required for your activity. All calculations carried out will need to be referenced in your Risk Assessment and included with your submission.

8. Ensure that the Emergency Procedure Card is in place in the laser area

The emergency procedure card provides a summary of the laser which is in use. in the event of a laser strike, the emergency procedure card should be taken with the injured person to the eye hospital at Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital at Walsgrave. This should be referenced in your risk assessment and included in your submission.

9. Submit your Risk Assessment and Supporting Documentation for approval

Once a risk assessment has been completed, you will need to submit your risk assessment and all supporting documentation to HSRadiation at warwick dot ac dot uk. Until you receive approval via the University Laser Safety Officer (on behalf of the IRNIR Committee), you will not be authorised to start work.