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Lasers

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The State of Texas regulates the use of lasers through the Texas Department of State Health Services Radiation Branch. Lasers present many safety threats, but the most common threat is damage to the eyes. Other common laser concerns include skin damage, electrical hazards from high-energy power sources, chemical exposure, fire/explosion hazards, and exposure to cryogenic materials such as hydrogen and oxygen. Many lasers emit invisible ultraviolet or infrared radiation.

Lasers are classified into four basic categories as indicated below:

  • Class 1: Lowest power lasers that do not emit hazardous levels
  • Class 2: Low-power lasers that pose a hazard only if viewed directly for extended periods
  • Class 3: Medium-power lasers that pose moderate risk and can cause injury
  • Class 4: High-energy, high-risk lasers that can cause injury to the eyes and skin from direct or diffused reflection

NOTE: If you work with a class 3 or 4 laser, you must obtain a Laser Permit from your components Safety Office.

Laser devices require engineering controls to ensure safety. All Class 3 and 4 lasers require a combination of protective housing, area warning signs or remote firing capabilities.

The following information is required for obtaining a laser permit:

  • Classification of the laser device
  • Wavelength of the laser output
  • Power output
  • Appropriate eyewear

Follow these guidelines when working with Class 3 and 4 lasers:

  • Never aim a laser at a person.
  • Be very careful when working with hand-held laser pointers.
  • Do not allow children access to pointers.
  • Wear protective clothing such as eyewear and skin protection as appropriate.
  • Post warning signs at entrances where lasers are present.
  • When working with power supplies, remove jewelry, stand on a dry surface, and work with only one hand at a time. Observe high voltage precautions (see Electrical Safety chapter).
  • Control access to areas where lasers are used (i.e., no spectators).
  • If possible, enclose the entire laser beam path on Class 4 lasers.

4. Magnets

The information in this section pertains only to large magnets at TAMUS-HSC such as those used for magnetic resonance imaging.

Because the magnetic flux lines (or pull) from the main magnetic field can extend well beyond the actual magnet, the greatest hazard associated with large magnets is the missile effect. Ferromagnetic objects such as pens, scissors, screwdrivers, oxygen cylinders, and other metallic devices can be pulled into the magnet with enough force to cause a serious injury or accident. In addition, magnetic fields may also disrupt pacemakers or cause injury to individuals with surgically implanted metal pins or plates.

IMPORTANT: To protect bystanders and prevent the accidental introduction of ferromagnetic materials within the proximity of a magnet, establish a security zone around any large magnet.