Guidelines & Regulations



Laser safety guidelines and regulations apply to all individuals working with Class 3b or Class 4 lasers, as well as any rooms in which Class 3b or Class 4 lasers are operable. 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 radiation safety team 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 State of Illinois Administrative Code, the radiation safety team 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.

  • Notifying the laser safety officer 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 Office of Research Safety
  • Ensuring that 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 laser safety officer for approval
  • Notifying the laser safety officer of any acquisition, transfer, or disposal of lasers. A laser registration form must be submitted for each new or altered laser
  • Procuring 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 six months
  • Establishing administrative and 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
  • Notifying the laser safety officer in the event of an exposure incident
  • 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
  • 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 laser safety officer
  • Administering the laser safety program at the University of Chicago, which includes the composition and management of all related documentation
  • Serving as liaison between the University and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency on matters relating to laser safety
  • Performing annual laser inventory and registers new lasers with Illinois Emergency Management Agency
  • 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 llinois 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 the agency and 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 awareness training 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

In-service training will be administered by the principal investigator responsible for the laser, or a eesignee approved by the principal investigator. The initial training certification form must be completed and submitted to the radiation safety team.The in-service consists of on-site instruction thatencompasses each of the laser systems in use. This training will cover, at a minimum, the following:

  • Review of the standard operating procedures and emergency operating procedures 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

Annual refresher training

Annual refresher training will consist of a laser user review of the laser safety awareness training and a review of the standard operating procedure and emergency operating procedure 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.

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, submission of standard or emergency operating procedures, 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 radiation safety team 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.

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 in any of the following cases:

  • Ocular history indicative of previous eye injury or deficiencies
  • Discovery of inadequate eye protection by engineering controls or administrative procedures
  • Request made by the principal investigator maintaining laser use areas

A medical examination is required after any suspected laser injury. Examinations will be prescribed in accordance with the protocols established in ANSI Z136.1-2007 Appendix E 3.2

An exposure incident consists of any accidental exposure to laser radiation which exceeds the maximum permissible exposure 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, Chicago Lying-In Hospital, 5815 South Maryland Avenue, Room L156
  • University of Chicago Medicine, Bernard Mitchell Hospital emergency room, 901 East 58th Street

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 must be maintained and accessible to the laser users in the laser use area. New laser systems requiring a standard operating procedure or existing systems with changes to the SOP can be generated using the SOP template. An SOP must be submitted to the radiation safety team 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 in question.

A copy of the alignment procedures must be maintained in the laboratory, where applicable.

UChicagoSocial: Office of Research Safety