Blasting a laser into your flesh or skin generally isn’t the brightest idea. Nonetheless, in health care facilities, lasers, of varying types and wavelengths (measured in nm), are used for incisions and excisions in surgery, sealing blood vessels in the retina, removing wrinkles or conducting other plastic surgery processing, treating malignant tissues, and an assortment of other treatments. These processes are valued for their enhanced efficiencies, but they are by no means devoid of hazards. Therefore, ANSI Z136.3-2018: Safe Use of Lasers in Health Care is a pretty crucial document in the health care industry.
The word laser is actually an acronym. Standing for “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation,” laser light is monochromatic and can be generated in varying parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, including ultraviolet (UV), visible light, and infrared (IR). In the medical industry and in the application of health care, these coherent light sources can make cuts that do not bleed and can assist in the diagnosis of disease, but they damage the eyes and skin and present non-beam hazards.
The American National Standard ANSI Z136.3-2018 provides guidance for lasers in health care, and it is applicable to lasers that operate a wavelengths between 180 nm and 1000 µm on the UV, visible, and IR regions of the electromagnetic spectrum (i.e. “laser radiation”). It provides specific processes to protect anyone who might become exposed to laser radiation and assists in establishing a program to promote the safe use of health care laser systems (HCLSs).
ANSI Z136.3-2018 is applicable to any locations where an HCLS is being used as a medical device. This includes hospital facilities, ambulatory surgery centers (ASC), and individual medical, dental, and veterinarian offices, as well as non-medical locations, such as salons and spas. HCLSs include a delivery system to direct the output of the laser, a power supply with laser control and calibrations, protecting housing, and associated liquids and gases.
Much like other laser safety standards, ANSI Z136.3-2018 outlines laser classification—including Class 1, 1C, 1M, 1, 2, 2M, 3, 3R, 3B, and 4 laser systems, with Class 1 lasers being exempt from any kind of control due to their lack of hazard and Class 4 lasers needing strict controls. The standard also provides guidance to employers for establishing laser safety policies and procedures and training programs in safe laser use, and it includes engineering, procedural, and administrative controls and laser safety training. The document also details information on the environment, non-beam hazards, and examinations following laser-induced injuries.
Overall, the standard is intended for use by all people associated with the application, installation, operation, calibration, maintenance, and service of an HCLS, as well as others exposed to lasers being used as medical devices or in health care applications.
ANSI Z136.3-2018 was published by the Laser Institute of America (LIA), an ANSI-accredited standards developing organization. Another important standard published by LIA, ANSI Z136.1-2022: American National Standard for Safe Use of Lasers, can be a useful companion to ANSI Z136.3-2018. ANSI Z136.3-2018 may be used independently of ANSI Z136.1-2022, however, instances in which additional guidance from ANSI Z136.1-2022 is needed are noted in the text of ANSI Z136.3-2018. You can get both of these standards together as:
ANSI Z136.3-2018: Safe Use of Lasers in Health Care is available on the ANSI Webstore.