Laser Safety Procedure

Policy Information
Policy TitleLaser Safety Procedure
Responsible OfficeEnvironmental Health and Safety (EH&S)
Policy TypeEnvironmental Health
Policy Number1003
Last Revision Date10/24/2023


The laser is a light source that produces a monochromatic coherent beam of relatively high energy. In addition to the potential hazards of eye or body exposure to the laser beam and its reflections, potentially harmful radiation may be generated. Ozone may be produced and toxic materials may be generated in the target area. Precautions are also required to protect against exposure to high voltages and the possibility of fire (toxic gases are often used in laser).

This procedure outlines basic safety considerations for laser operations. The procedure is based on but is not as inclusive as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Standard Z136.1-1972 and the New York Labor Department Code Rule 50. It is recommended that faculty and staff working with lasers be thoroughly familiar with these two codes.

Exposure Criteria

Because the energy level and output frequency or wave length depend upon the type of laser used and its method of operation, the radiant intensity of each laser beam and of its reflections shall be determined by direct measurement or by calculations. Control measures shall be taken to keep the possible exposure of personnel well within the maximum permissible exposure (MPE) levels stated in ANSI Z136.1 and Code Rule 50.


The department owning and operating the laser shall notify the Laser Safety Officer at 607-777-2211 of the intent to procure and install and will ensure that governmental agencies are notified and maintain required records.

The Laser Safety Officer (607-777-2211) must be notified when a laser operation is discontinued or dismantled.


The individual offices shall maintain a current inventory of all laser devices. The inventory shall include the manufacturer's name, model number, type, serial number, SUNY inventory number, wave length, power and/or energy, beam geometry, location (building and room), responsible faculty, and users. A copy of this inventory must be sent to EH&S and updated annually.


Faculty, staff, and students that operate or assist in the operation of laser equipment shall be thoroughly trained. The training shall include an explanation of potential hazards of the laser beam and its reflected energy, safety requirements, use of personal protective equipment, emergency procedures, and any other information operators need to know in order to protect themselves and others. Each operator should be given a copy of the operating procedures. All faculty, staff, and students shall receive the required training prior to operating the laser. Copies of emergency procedures will be sent to the EHS Office.

Eye Protection

Appropriate eye protection shall be used whenever the possibility exists for eye exposure in excess of maximum permissible limits. It shall be capable of attenuating the maximum possible exposure to within acceptable limits. All eye protection devices shall be clearly marked to identify the optical density at the wavelength they will protect against. The owner of the equipment shall conduct periodic inspections of this equipment including inspection of attenuator material for pitting, crazing, cracking, etc., and of frames for mechanical integrity and light leaks. There shall be a sufficient number of eye protection devices located in each laboratory containing a laser for all persons required to be in the laboratory at any one time.

Laboratory Facilities

Laser operations shall be confined to fully enclosed rooms, isolated from other non-laser operations, unless the laser equipment protects personnel from levels of radiation above the MPE's indicated in ANSI Z136.1 and Code Rule 50. If more than one laser is within a single room, effective optical and physical barriers shall be provided between them to prevent personnel from inadvertently viewing or intercepting beam paths. The use of door interlocks and/or signal lights prevent entrance while a laser is in operation shall be considered.

Laser beams shall not be projected beyond the confines of the controlled area without prior written approval of the University Radiological Safety Committee and the EHS Office.

Warning Signs

Laser warning signs shall be used in accordance with ANSI Z136.1 and Code Rule 50. The presence of warning signs should be checked daily by the owner/operator.


Ventilation shall be sufficient to remove any hazardous gases which may escape from sealed systems of continuous flow gas lasers or to safely controlled cryogenic liquids and gases used to purge and cool lasers.

Forced ventilation shall be provided for pumping sources such as mercury or xenon lamps, which may produce ozone in hazardous quantities. Forced ventilation will also be required in the area of the target when toxic materials, such as evaporated metals or decomposed materials are present.

Facilities Management staff will be consulted in all cases where additional forced ventilation is required so as to assure adequate makeup air.

Fire Prevention

Combustible and flammable material will be kept to a minimum and placed so it will not be accidentally exposed to high power laser beams. The EHS Office will assist in the placement of appropriate fire extinguishers.

Accident Reports

Accidents involving exposure to a laser beam shall be immediately reported to both the University Health Physicist and the EHS Office. A written accident report shall be completed by the injured person's supervisor and forwarded to the EHS Office within five days. 

All students receiving accidental exposures must seek medical care immediately.

The following constitutes accidental exposure:

  1. A person who suspects they have had accidental eye exposure or who suffers persistent after-image or abnormal effect shall report to a medical facility for examination.
  2. A person who receives skin exposure from a laser resulting in discomfort or which produces a reddening of the exposed area shall report to a medical facility for examination. Any delayed, persistent, or progressive change in any area of the skin shall be reported.

Other Requirements

  1. All laser installations shall meet requirements set forth in the New York State Building Construction Code and the National Electrical Code.
  2. High voltage laser circuits shall be protected by interlocked covers. When the removal of interlocked covers becomes necessary for work, such work, such as maintenance, adjustment or experimental tryout, there must be a written procedure. The procedure will outline the steps to be taken, precautionary measures, protective equipment and type and placement of shielding and must be approved by the faculty member responsible for the laser. A copy of such procedure will be sent to the EHS Office.
  3. Capacitors shall be equipped with positive discharge devices and the capacitor bank will be provided with adequate shielding for protection in the event of rupture.
  4. Cables between the power supply and the laser head must be corona-free and they must have adequate dielectric strength. Periodic inspection will be made to determine these capabilities. If a cable shows the presence of corona, it will be replaced immediately.
  5. Layout of all auxiliary equipment such as meters and instruments will be made to minimize the hazards to the operators. For example, operators will not be required to face the direction of the laser beam during charging or firing in order to use the above instruments.
  6. The beam path shall be enclosed wherever possible to avoid accidental skin or eye exposure.