Health and Safety

Laser Safety


Most types of lasers operating in the visible and near infrared regions are sufficiently intense as to represent a hazard to the eye. Although damage may be caused to all parts of the eyes, the most vulnerable part is the retina, on which the beam may be focussed by the eye lens resulting in the destruction of tissues and the creation of permanent blind spots. High power lasers can also damage the skin.

Laser Classes

Laser hazard is identified by classification of the laser (1 to 4, with 3 and 4 posing greater hazard). The class of each laser must be marked clearly by the supplier. Lasers falling into class 3 (either 3R, the lower hazard subdivision of this class, or 3B, the higher hazard subdivision), or class 4 must be registered with the Safety Office. Laser registrations must be accompanied by a risk assessment and a Laser Survey Form.

Exposure Control

Safety measures usually concentrate on making the beam path inaccessible, thus preventing exposure. In many applications (i.e. particle sizing, interferometry and Raman spectrometry) the laser will be enclosed. Where research applications with unenclosed high power beams are involved, a mixture of engineering controls, administrative procedures and personal protection will be needed.

Lasers should be operated with as high a background level of illumination as possible to ensure that the pupil of the eye is small and in some cases it may be advisable to wear protective goggles. The goggles to be worn should be appropriate to the wavelength of the laser beam being used.

Care should be taken to check the paths of all possible reflections and if necessary non-flammable opaque screens should be used to protect personnel.

It is important to establish whether the laser used produces a beam in the visible part of the EM spectrum or not. In the case of the latter, personnel may be unaware that they have been exposed to laser radiation unless clear warning is given that the laser is operating.

University Code of Practice for Laser Safety PDF format

Admin Summary

The key administrative elements:

  • Schools where lasers are used should appoint a School Laser Supervisor
  • Each School should have a list of all non-office equipment lasers and laser users
  • Each School must maintain a record of users of Class 3R and above lasers. There are forms available (see below) but these do not need to be sent to the Safety Office
  • Each School must register lasers of Class 3R and above on the University Form and send a copy to the Safety Office
  • A laser survey form must be completed for each laser system of Class 3R and above prior to first use and and on an annual basis thereafter.
  • Prior to use for the first time of any laser of Class 3R and above, a risk assessment must be completed and written procedures for use produced
  • Risk assessments and laser survey forms for Class 3B and 4 lasers must be forwarded to the Safety Office with the laser registration form prior to first use
  • No Class 3B or 4 laser system should be put into use for the first time with out the approval of the School Laser Supervisor, and if necessary, the Safety Office.
  • All Laser Users must be trained, see MOODLE introductory course which is mandatory for all new users.

Safety Office

Pharmacy Building - Lower Ground Floor
University Park
University of Nottingham
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

Telephone: +44 (0)115 951 3401