An American National Standard published by the Laser Institute of America (LIA), ANSI Z136.1-2022: Safe Use Of Lasers, classifies laser beams by their potential harm. These classifications, which are organized by increasing intensity as 1, 1M, 2, 2M, 3R, 3B, and 4, protect personnel who operate lasers on a daily basis. This document (a horizontal standard) offers fundamental principles over a broad subject area. The Accredited Standards Committee (ASC) Z136 has also developed several standards catered to the use of lasers in specific industries (vertical standards).
Lasers in Manufacturing
One of the main applications of lasers is in manufacturing. Laser beams are used for cutting and welding many different materials.
ANSI Z136.9-2013: American National Standard for Safe Use of Lasers in Manufacturing Environments provides guidelines for laser use in these applications. It recommends that management establish a laser safety program, since they are responsible for the safety of their employees. This program should involve provisions for educating the laser-operating personnel in laser systems greater than Class 1, adequate control measures for mitigating laser hazards, a venue for incident investigation, appropriate medical examinations, and formation of a Laser Safety Committee. Examples of protective measures against laser beams include recommended eyewear and barriers for employees to stand behind.
Lasers in Research and Testing
Lasers are also widely utilized in laboratory research, development, and testing. In fact, back when the ANSI Z136.1 standard was first published, the majority of lasers were found in research laboratories. Decades later, of course, the applications of lasers have burgeoned to the various areas that now necessitate their own focus in an American National Standard.
Laser operations in these environments are unique because they may be used in conditions different from regular operations, accessing levels of radiation that vary from the designations in the standardized classes. For example, physicists in a laboratory setting have created an “air laser.”
ANSI Z136.8-2021: American National Standard for Safe Use of Lasers in Research, Development, or Testing manages any controls needed to ensure the safety of laboratory personnel operating laser equipment. In most cases, the methods outlined in the standard can remove the need for laser radiation measurements and other testing methods. These additional tests and measurements can create unwanted laser-related hazards.
Lasers in Health Care
In health care environments, the advanced technology of lasers finds multifarious applications: incisions and excisions during surgery, removing wrinkles, and removing malignant tissues, just to name a few. ANSI Z136.3-2018: Safe Use Of Lasers In Health Care helps establish a program to promote the safe use of health care laser systems (HCLSs) in any locations where they are being used as a medical device.
You can learn more about this standard in our post ANSI Z136.3-2018: Safe Use of Lasers in Health Care.
Lasers in Education
Lasers are also important equipment for scientific education. ANSI Z136.5-2020: American National Standard for Safe Use of Lasers in Educational Institutions establishes recommendations for laser operations in educational institutions that use lasers as part of their curriculum or academic instruction.
Similar to the training program found in ANSI Z136.9-2013, this standard suggests a training procedure for students who operate laser equipment as learning instruments. The spaces used to house these lasers are often not properly designed to do so, occasionally being too small to properly project laser beams without harming user’s eyes and even creating electrical hazards from using too much energy. The standard provides guidelines to properly avoid any detrimental effects related to these variables.
Vertical and Horizontal Laser Safety Standards
Along with specific information on their particular applications, each of these standards provides a background on the classifications of laser types that are laid out in ANSI Z136.1-2022. Any LIA standard, as a “vertical” standard used for a specific application, should be used in conjunction with this “horizontal” standard if the laser systems are implemented indoors.
If any laser operations for manufacturing or research occur outdoors, then personnel and supervisors should follow the guidelines established in ANSI Z136.6-2015: American National Standard for Safe Use of Lasers Outdoors. This type of environment differs from any indoors because there is more space for the laser beam to travel. You can learn more about this standard in our post ANSI Z136.6 – Safe Use of Lasers Outdoors.
You can learn more about the specifics of vertical and horizontal standards developed by ASC Z136 for laser safety in our post Vertical and Horizontal Standards – What?!.