Environmental Health and Safety

Environmental Health and Safety

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Laser Safety

Queen's University Health & Safety Policy requires conformance to health and safety regulations and standards. The Queen's University Laser Safety Program is provided to assist members of the university community to conform to the requirements of the Ontario Ministry of Labour, ANSI Z136.1- 1993 and related regulations and standards.

The Laser Safety Program applies to all persons: employees, students and visitors operating or working in proximity to Class 3b or Class 4 lasers.  Persons included under this program are identified as Laser Workers. All components of the program are to be completed before a laser worker starts work.

Laser Registration

Laser Pointer Safety

Laser pointers have become common tools in the workplace. Most often laser pointers are used as a substitute for the retractable metal pointer used during lectures or presentations. Laser pointers can also be found in many power tools and levels.

Hand-held laser pointers are very popular in Canada. Unfortunately, users are not knowledgeable about the intensity of the light and the effect it may have on the eyes.

Background

Laser technology was first developed in the 1960s and has grown to touch our lives in may ways. We use laser technology in space-age medical equipment, office printers and light shows at rock concerts.

A laser is the strongest source of light ever created by scientists. The beam that comes out of a simple hand-held laser pointer is at least a million times brighter than the average light bulb in your home.

The letters in "laser" stand for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.

Concern about Laser Pointers

There pointers are not dangerous when used with care, but the brightness of laser light can damage the eyes of anyone who looks directly into the beam for more than a minute and a half.

A split-second look can result in a condition called flash blindness. This is similar to the effect you get during flash photography, where the image of the flash remains in your eyes for a few seconds, and then fades away.

Flash blindness is temporary. Your vision returns to normal after a few moments, and there are no long-term effects. However, a longer look can cause serious damage to your eyes. It's worse if the laser beam is being projected through a piece of optical equipment, such as a telescope or a pair of binoculars. In these situations, the laser beam could actually burn a tiny spot, or cut open a blood vessel, on the retina at the back of your eye. In a worst-case scenario, you could go blind.

Use Common Sense

Laser pointers are not toys. Use them with caution, and only for their intended purpose. By following a few guidelines you can make sure no one gets hurt by a laser pointer.

  • When buying a laser pointer, choose one that is labeled Class II and operates with a wavelength between 630 nm and 680 nm. Maximum output should be less than 5m watts.
  • Choose one that has a clear warning on the label about the potential to cause eye damage. Read the instructions carefully, and follow them closely.
  • Choose a laser pointer that stays on only when you apply pressure with your fingers. That way you can never leave the beam on bu accident.
  • Never point a laser beam at anyone, and never look directly into the beam yourself.
  • Never aim a laser pointer at surfaces that would reflect the light back, such as mirrors or mirrored surfaces.
  • Never leave a laser pointer where children might get their hands on it.