ANSI Z136.1-2014: Safe Use of Lasers

Red laser emitting through amplified darkness in ANSI Z136.1-2014 safe use.

Lasers might be seemingly straight out of science fiction, but laser technology is abundant in industries throughout the world. Several standards minimize hazards to those who work with lasers, with ANSI Z136.1-2014 providing general requirements for their safe use.

The Discovery of Lasers and Their Usage

In his 1898 novel, The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells describes invading Martians wielding an invisible but powerful heat ray. This speculative technology is essentially what we know today as a CO2 laser. Just after this time, interest in radiation was incredibly high, and this was largely due to the discovery of radio, X-rays, and radar in the early 20th Century.

The 1950s saw years of discussion of scientific theory on amplifying radiation, with several important figures coming to similar conclusions as to theoretically manipulate light. During this time, Gordon Gould first identified the then-unmade technology Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Ratiation, or Laser, the acronym by which we still call it today.

In 1960, Theodore Maiman placed a ruby inside a helical-shaped lamp to create the world’s first laser. The technology has been advancing ever since, having applications in communications, entertainment, surgery, and scientific advancement.

Most lasers are just amplifying light, but the frequency of each laser varies. In fact, some can be looked at directly without causing ocular harm, while others can be damaging from any kind of exposure.

About ANSI Z136.1-2014

ANSI Z136.1-2014: American National Standard for Safe Use of Lasers sets recommended guidelines for the safe use of lasers that operate at wavelengths between 180 nm and 1000 μm. The standard specifies both the environment in which the laser is being used and any environment around the path of the beam.

While susceptibility to damage of materials is an important consideration with laser operations, the primary concern is the hazard to any person operating the equipment.

ANSI Z136.1-2014 classifies each type of laser by its potential for biological harm. These classifications are Class 1, Class 1M, Class 2, Class 2M, Class 3R, Class 3B, and Class 4, with Class 1 lasers being exempt from any kind of control due to their lack of hazard and Class 4 lasers requiring strict controls in order to reduce the risk of exposure to the eyes or skin. The specific controls for each classification are thoroughly described in the standard.

ANSI Z136.1-2014 was developed by the Accredited Standards Committee (ASC) Z136, and it revises the 2007 edition of the same American National Standard. Overall, it marked several major updates with a focus on increased usability. Some of these changes included new terms, a significant increase in allowed exposure levels for wavelengths between 1.2 µm and 1.4 µm, and the official positioning of ANSI Z136.1 as a horizontal standard, whereby vertical standards for laser safety take precedent over this one within their scope.

ANSI Z136.1-2014: American National Standard For Safe Use Of Lasers is available on the ANSI Webstore.

Laser Institute of America (LIA) Standards

ANSI Z136.1-2014 is an American National Standard published by the Laser Institute of America (LIA). LIA serves as the Secretariat of ASC Z136, which develops several other standards regarding laser applications and safety, including:

ANSI Z136.2-2012: American National Standard for Safe Use of Optical Fiber Communication Systems Utilizing Laser Diode and LED Sources
ANSI Z136.3-2018: American National Standard for Safe Use of Lasers in Health Care
ANSI Z136.4-2010: American National Standard Recommended Practice for Laser Safety Measurements for Hazard Evaluation
ANSI Z136.5- 2020: American National Standard for Safe Use of Lasers in Educational Institutions
ANSI Z136.6-2015: American National Standard for Safe Use of Lasers Outdoors
ANSI Z136.8-2012: American National Standard for Safe Use of Lasers in Research, Development, or Testing
ANSI Z136.9-2013: American National Standard for Safe Use of Lasers in Manufacturing Environments

If you’d like to learn more about the vertical/horizontal characterization of laser safety standards published by LIA, please refer to our post Vertical and Horizontal Standards – What?!. Anyone who needs to acquire ANSI Z136.1 and a horizontal standard for a specific laser application can find the ANSI Z136.1 and Z136.2 Combination Set, ANSI Z136.1 and Z136.3 Combination Set, and other applicable standards packages on the ANSI Webstore.

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