Guidelines and Regulations

Authority and Responsibility

Department’s are responsible for:

  • Notifying the LSO when purchasing, trading, or disposing of Class 3b and Class 4 lasers. Laser Registration Form must be submitted for each new or altered laser.
  • Ensuring that all lasers and laser systems owned by the department are registered with the ORS.
  • Ensuring individuals who work with or around lasers or laser systems have received the appropriate laser safety training.
  • Ensuring that a Standard Operating Procedure has been completed for each laser or laser system, is readily available to laser users, and has been submitted to the LSO for approval.

Principal Investigator’s are responsible for:

  • Notification to the Laser Safety Officer of any acquisition, transfer, or disposal of lasers. Laser Registration Form must be submitted for each new or altered laser.
  • Procurement of all materials required for laser radiation protection, such as eyewear, barriers, curtains, etc.
  • Completing and submitting a Laser Eyewear Audit and Inventory Form at intervals not to exceed 6 months.
  • Establishing administrative and/or engineering controls for laser radiation protection in the laboratory.
  • Submitting Standard Operating Procedures and Emergency Operating Procedures for each laser system in use.
  • Providing system-specific training to all laser users under their supervision. A trained designate may also train potential laser users.
  • Notification of the Laser Safety Officer in the event of an exposure incident.

Laser User’s are responsible for:

  • Completing the University’s Laser Safety Awareness Training initially and annually thereafter.
  • Completing and signing the New User Training Certification Form.
  • Completing and submitting an Ocular History Questionnaire upon employment.
  • Only using Class 3b or Class 4 lasers or laser systems only if specifically authorized by the Principal Investigator.
  • Reporting known or suspected accidents to the Principal Investigator and the LSO.

Laser Safety Officer is responsible for:

  • Administration of the Laser Safety Program at the University of Chicago, including the composition and management of all related documentation.
  • Serving as liaison between the University and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency on matters relating to the Laser Safety Program.
  • Performing annual laser inventory and registers new lasers with IEMA.
  • Performing periodic audits of laser laboratories.
  • Providing laser safety training materials to potential laser users.
  • Requesting medical surveillance, investigating exposure incidents and composing incident reports, as needed.


The Laser Safety Program applies to all individuals working with Class 3b or Class 4 lasers. The room(s) in which Class 3b or Class 4 lasers are operable also fall under the scope of the Laser Safety Program. The University of Chicago establishes the laser class using the limits outlined in Table C1 and C2, Appendix C of ANZI Z136.1-2007. These limits are adherent to the laser class definitions described in Section 3.3 of the aforementioned standard.

Class 3b lasers present eye and skin hazards when viewing the beam directly or via specular reflection. Class 3b lasers do not produce hazardous diffuse reflections except when viewed with collecting optics. No fire hazards are presented. Class 3b lasers operate within a power output range of 5 to 500 mW.

Class 4 lasers are the most hazardous and may cause eye or skin injuries from viewing the beam directly, specularly, or diffusely. These lasers may present fire hazards or generate hazardous airborne contaminants. Class 4 lasers have a power output of greater than 500 mW.

The Laser Safety Officer and the Office of Radiation Safety shall make the final determination of Laser Classification for all homemade lasers or lasers which have been modified from the manufacturers’ original specifications.

In adherence to “Section 315.180 Inspections and Investigations” of the aforementioned State of Illinois Administrative Code, the Office of Radiation Safety is authorized to enter upon, inspect, and investigate the premises and operations of all laser systems at the University of Chicago. Each operator of a laser installation shall afford the Laser Safety Officer and Designees the opportunity to enter upon, inspect and investigate the laser installation at all reasonable times.

Training Requirements

Illinois Emergency Management Agency mandates Laser Safety Training for all users of Class 3b and Class 4 lasers (Title 32: Chapter II, Subchapter b, Part 315, Section 315.100)

Both IEMA and ANSI Z-136.1 require an initial laser safety training which is “commensurate with the greatest potential for hazards associated with each laser operation, and is consistent with the results of the completed hazard evaluation” as well as annual refresher training. The initial Laser Safety Training will be administered in two sections (Laser Safety Lecture and In-Service Training).

Laser Safety Awareness Training
The training will cover (at a minimum) fundamentals of laser operation, bioeffects of laser radiation on eyes and skin, laser system control measures, and non-beam hazards associated with laser operation. Laser users may fulfill this requirement by viewing the Laser Safety Awareness Training available on the University’s Chalk website.

In-Service Training

The in-service consists of on-site instruction which encompasses each of the laser systems in use. This training shall cover (at a minimum) the following:

  • Review of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and Emergency Operating Procedures (EOP) for each laser system.
  • Use of laser protective devices, including selection and use of protective eyewear.
  • Clear warnings and precautions to avoid possible exposure to laser radiation in excess of the Maximum * Permissible Exposure, as determined in the Hazard Evaluation
  • Requirements for safe operation of lasers (see Section 315.100 b.).
  • Evaluation of prospective laser users’ competence in operation and safety procedures.
    In-service training shall be administered by the Principal Investigator responsible for the laser, or a Designee approved by the Principal Investigator. The Initial Training Certification Form must be completed and submitted to the Office of Radiation Safety.

Annual Refresher Training

Annual refresher training shall consist of a laser user review of the Laser Safety Awareness Training and a review of the SOP and EOP for each applicable laser system.

Changes to an existing laser system which would alter the results of the Hazard Evaluation may require an update to the Standard Operation Procedure, Emergency Operation Procedure, or an additional In-service training. Laser users may contact the Laser Safety Officer to assess the need for additional training, as needed.

Laser Acquisitions/Laser System Alterations

The Laser Safety Officer must be directly notified of any decision to purchase, fabricate, or otherwise acquire a laser or laser system that may be classified as a Class 3b or Class 4 laser. Prior to the initial operation of the laser, the laser owner (or users) must complete and submit a Laser Registration Form. The Laser Safety Officer uses the Laser Registration Form to initiate the official laser registration with IEMA. New Class 3b or Class 4 lasers many NOT be put into operation prior to LSO review.

In the event that the acquisition of a laser or alteration of a laser system may alter the hazards of a particular workplace, a Hazard Evaluation must be completed by the Laser Safety Officer. The Laser Safety Officer will recommend changes to the SOP, EOP, and use of laser protection devices as needed. All mandatory laser warning postings will be provided by the Office of Radiation Safety.

Class 3b and Class 4 lasers in use at the University of Chicago prior to July 1, 2009 and not previously registered with the Laser Safety Officer must be acknowledged with the receipt of a new Laser Registration Form. Failure to notify the Laser Safety Officer of the receipt or construction of eligible lasers after July 1, 2009 may result in the revocation of laser use privileges and/or other disciplinary action, which may include termination of employment or dismissal.

Control Measures

Principal Investigators using lasers at the University of Chicago are required to provide and maintain the necessary materials (protective eyewear, beam stops, barriers, beam housing, etc.) to satisfy the minimum criteria for appropriate control measures as outlined in ANSI Z136.1-2007. “Control measures” are defined as those materials, policies, and practices employed with the purpose of reducing the possibility of human exposure to hazardous laser radiation and non-beam laser hazards. A designated “laser control area” must be established which limits potential exposures to values less than the Maximum Permissible Exposure determined in the Hazard Evaluation process. The Hazard Evaluation Form will assist you with this process.

The Laser Safety Officer may require laser users to implement administrative, procedural, or engineering controls to maintain the laser control area. Please refer to the Laser Safety Manual for information on control measure implementation for Class 3b and Class 4 lasers.

The Laser Safety Officer and designees shall have the authority to monitor and enforce the control of laser hazards, including evaluation and surveillance of the appropriate control measures.

The Laser Safety Officer reserves the right to approve Alternate Control Measures for both Class 3b and Class 4 lasers and laser systems. The Alternate Control Measures will be implemented only in instances where alternative administrative, procedural, or engineering controls provide equivalent protection to those required by ANSI Z136.1-2007. Additional training, SOP/EOP submission, and Laser Safety Officer review are required whenever alternative measures are employed.

Entry to laser control areas is restricted to personnel who have been trained in laser safety and in the operation of the laser or laser system. Untrained individuals may enter under the supervision of trained personnel only when the laser or laser system is not in use.

Laminated laser warning signs and postings are provided by the Office of Radiation Safety upon request. Principal Investigators are responsible for acquisition of all personal protective equipment, protective housings, beam stops, barriers, key controls, interlocks, and audible or visible warning systems as specified.

Medical Surveillance

ANSI Z136.1-2007 recommends medical laser surveillance for all personnel routinely working in laser environments. It is at the discretion of the Laser Safety Officer to require medical surveillance, including eye examinations, for any laser user. “New” users of lasers at the University of Chicago must complete an Ocular History Questionnaire.

Baseline eye examinations will be requested when any of the following criteria are met:

Ocular History indicative of previous eye injury or deficiencies.
Discovery of inadequate eye protection by engineering controls or administrative procedures.

Upon request of the Principal Investigator maintaining laser use areas.
A medical examination is required after any suspected laser injury (see also Exposure Incidents). Examinations will be prescribed in accordance with the protocols established in ANSI Z136.1-2007 Appendix E 3.2

Exposure Incidents

An “Exposure Incident” will consist of any accidental exposure to laser radiation which exceeds the Maximum Permissible Exposure(s) established for any and all lasers or laser systems at the University of Chicago. All laser accidents resulting in an Exposure Incident must be immediately reported to the Laser Safety Officer. Any laser accidents of unknown consequence including suspicion of unintended exposure should be reported to the Laser Safety Officer for further inquiry. The Laser Safety Officer (or designee) will conduct interviews and file a Laser Safety Incident Report for all Exposure Incidents.

Medical attention should be sought by individuals known or suspected to have been exposed to laser radiation or non-beam hazards in the laser use area. Medical facilities available to faculty, staff, and students are as follows:

*University of Chicago Occupational Medicine (UCOM), Chicago Lying-In Hospital, 5815 S. Maryland Avenue, room L156

UCMC Emergency Room , Bernard Mitchell Hospital, 901 East 58th Street

Required Documentation

  • Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)
    A Standard Operating Procedure is required for each Class 3b and Class 4 laser or laser system in operation at the University of Chicago. A copy of the SOP must be maintained and accessible to the laser users in the laser use area. New laser systems requiring an SOP or existing systems with changes to the SOP can be generated using the SOP Template. An SOP must be submitted to the Office of Radiation Safety before any new laser system is fully installed and activated.
  • Emergency Operating Procedure (EOP)
    The Emergency Operating Procedure provides instructions to laser users and personnel in adjacent work spaces in the event of an exposure, injury, non-beam accident, fire, or other incident requiring immediate response. Each laboratory must maintain an EOP in the workspace provided. Laser users may adapt the EOP Outline for their respective laser use areas.
  • Alignment Procedures
    Alignment of Class 3b or Class 4 laser optical systems (mirrors, lenses, beam deflectors, etc.) shall be performed in such a manner that the primary beam, or a specular or diffuse reflection of a beam, does not expose the eye to a level above the applicable Maximum Permissible Exposure.

An alignment procedure protocol is required for all Class 3b and Class 4 lasers at the University of Chicago. Principal Investigators and their staff may adopt the Laser Alignment Checklist procedure as the standard alignment protocol. In circumstances where additional safety precautions, techniques, equipment, or specialized training may be required to perform beam alignments, a supplemental Alignment Protocol must be developed for the laser(s) in question.

A copy of the Alignment Procedures must be maintained in the laboratory, where applicable.