Lasers are arguably one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. Once described as “a solution in search of a problem”, lasers are used in every aspect of life today, from signaling, telecommunications and range finding, to surveying, surgery and testing. Lasers come from picowatt to megawatt sizes and in infrared (IR), visible, and ultraviolet (UV) varieties.
Whether you are integrating lasers in equipment, building lasers from scratch, conducting research or using them in your daily operations, you need to be aware of the hazards specific to your laser and application.
There are a number of key regulations and standards in force today. In Canada, the general machinery safety regulations in each province require that employers protect workers from hazards created by the machines and processes that they use. Federal regulations place similar requirements on Federally regulated businesses as well. Lasers are regulated under the Radiation Emitting Devices Act and the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. Lasers must be reported to the Consumer and Clinical Radiation Protection Bureau.
In the USA, the FDA regulates lasers through the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH). Lasers and laser products sold in the USA must be registered with the CDRH and must meet the OSHA regulations for laser safety. There are different requirements for medical and non-medical lasers.
In the EU, lasers are covered under a number of directives, including 98/37/EC Machinery and the new edition of the same directive, 2006/42/EC , the Low Voltage Directive 2006/95/EC, and the EMC Directive, 2004/108/EC.
In Canada, the general standard for laser safety is CAN/CSA E60825‑1. For healthcare applications, the standard is CSA Z386 where the laser is used in a healthcare facility (i.e. a surgical laser), and is CAN/CSA-C22.2 NO. 60601–2‑22–01 for medical equipment applications. There are additional standards that pertain to the electrical shock and fire safety of these products as well.
In the USA, the general standard for laser safety is ANSI Z136.1. There are a number of additional parts of ANSI Z136 that may also apply to your application. This standard is being replaced by IEC 60825–1 as ANSI harmonized with the International Community.
In addition, NFPA 115 deals with fire protection in lasers and laser installations. The CDRH also publishes a laser standard, 21 CFR 1040.10. Lasers intended to be marketed in the USA must meet the CDRH requirements and be registered with the CDRH before they can can be marketed.
For industrial applications, ANSI B11.21 applies to machinery incorporating lasers.
In the EU, the primary laser safety standard is EN IEC 60825–1. In addition, the following standards may be applicable to your application:
- EN ISO 11145:2006 Optics and photonics — Lasers and laser-related equipment — Vocabulary and symbols (ISO 11145:2006)
- EN ISO 11252:2004 Lasers and laser-related equipment — Laser device — Minimum requirements for documentation (ISO 11252:2004)
- EN ISO 11553–1:2005 Safety of machinery — Laser processing machines — Part 1: General safety requirements (ISO 11553–1:2005)
- EN ISO 11553–2:2007 Safety of machinery — Laser processing machines — Part 2: Safety requirements for hand-held laser processing devices (ISO 11553–2:2007)
- EN ISO 11554:2006 Optics and photonics — Lasers and laser-related equipment — Test methods for laser beam power, energy and temporal characteristics (ISO 11554:2006)
- EN 12254:1998 + A2:2008 Screens for laser working places — Safety requirements and testing