Most lasers used at Oregon State University are capable of causing eye injury to anyone who looks directly into the beam or its reflections from a specular (mirror-like) surface.  In addition, diffuse reflections of a high-power laser beam can produce permanent eye damage.  High-power laser beams can burn exposed skin, ignite flammable materials, and heat materials that release hazardous fumes, gases, debris, or radiation.  Equipment and optical apparatus required to produce and control laser energy may also introduce additional hazards associated with high voltage, high pressure, cryogenics, noise, other forms of radiation, flammable materials, and toxic fluids.  Thus, each proposed experiment or operation involving a laser must be evaluated to determine the hazards involved and the appropriate safety measures and controls required.

Laser Safety Program

The Laser Safety Program is administered by Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S).  The Laser Safety Officer for Oregon State University recommends that individuals using lasers set up and operate laser facilities to meet the laser safety guidelines established by the American National Standards Institute(ANSI) standard ANSI Z136.1-2007, American National Standard for the Safe Use of Lasers.

The Laser Safety Program applies to individuals who operate or work in proximity to Class 3b or Class 4 lasers.

Hazard Classification 

Commercial lasers are classified and certified by the manufacturer.  When a commercial laser is modified or when a new laser is constructed in the laboratory, it is the responsibility of the principal investigator to classify and label the laser per the ANSI Standard.  EH&S can assist in determining the appropriate classification.  

Medical Surveillance

Some individuals who operate or work in close proximity to particular Class 3B or Class 4 lasers or laser systems may receive a pre-assignment and a post-assignment eye examination performed by a consulting ophthalmologist.  Results of the examinations are maintained by the Occupational Health in Student Health Services at the Plageman Building.   Contact the Laser Safety Officer for more information.


Individuals who work with or in close proximity to Class 3b or Class 4 lasers must complete laser safety training provided by EH&S.  Training is recommended for users of Class 2, Class 3a and Class 3R users. This training includes:

  •  fundamentals of laser operation
  • biological effects of laser radiation on the eye and skin
  • non-radiation hazards (e.g., fire hazards, chemical exposure)
  • classification of lasers and laser systems
  • control measures and personal protective equipment


Roles and Responsibilities 


  •   Identify laser products that are covered by the ANSI Standard and establish procedures to ensure that the recommendations of the Standard are followed.
  • Ensure individual who work with or around lasers have received the proper laser safety training.
  • Establish a safety review procedure to determine that adequate hazard analyses and corrective actions have been completed for all applicable laser systems

Supervisors/Principal Investigators

  • Be knowledgeable of the education and training requirements for laser safety, the potential laser hazards and associated control measures for all lasers under their control.
  • Report known or suspected accidents to EHS.
  • Ensure that lasers under their control are not operated or modified without approval of the supervisor or principal investigator.
  • Ensure that all administrative and engineering controls are followed.
  •  Maintain inventory control and a permanent record of the status of all Class 3B, and Class 4 lasers
  • Ensure that individuals working with lasers have attended the general laser safety training and provide laser operators with training in the administrative, alignment and standard operating procedures.
  • Classify and label any unclassified lasers
  • Complete the University's laser safety training programs.
  • Ensure that eligible laser workers are registered for the medical surveillance program.
  • Notify EH&S immediately in the event of an exposure to a Class 3 or Class 4 laser.
  • Provide standard operating procedures (SOP), in accordance with ANSI Z136.1-2007 and any established University policy, for all laser operations involving Class 3b and Class 4 lasers detailing alignment, operation and maintenance procedures.

Purchasing Office

  • Notify EHS when orders for Class 3 and Class 4 lasers are placed


  • Review and approve the purchase of Class 3 and Class 4 lasers
  • Provide assistance in evaluating and controlling hazards.
  • Maintain records of lasers and laser operators.
  • Provide laser safety training.
  • Participate in accident investigations involving lasers.
  • Periodically audit the departmental Laser Safety Program.


  • Attend laser safety training
  • Be familiar with specific safety hazards of lasers which is being operated or working near.
  • Follow standard operating procedures and comply with requirements established by the Laser Safety Committee, Laser Safety Officer and the supervisor.
  • Use Class 3B or Class 4 lasers only if specifically authorized by the laser supervisor.
  • Report known or suspected accidents to the supervisor and EHS.
  • Inform spectators about and protect spectators from all potential laser hazards
  • Register for the medical surveillance program.


Contact the Laser Safety Officer at 541-737-7082 for more information. 

The following resources and training aids are available through EH&S:

  • ANSI Standard Z136.1-2007, American National Standard for the Safe Use of Lasers, 2007
  • OSHA Technical Manual, Section III, Chapter 6, Laser Hazards
  • DVD: Mastering Light: An Introduction to Laser Safety and Hazards, Laser Institute of America
  • Interactive training, LIMITS: Laser Safety in Medicine, Austrian Research Centers/Laser Institute of America, 2001
  • Sliney, David and Wolbarsht, Safety with Lasers and Other Optical Sources, A Comprehensive Handbook, Plenum Press, 1977
  • Marshall, Wesley and Sliney, David, Laser Safety Guide, Laser Institute of America, 2000
  • Sliney, David, editor, LIA Guide for the Selection of Laser Eye Protection, 2000
  • Hitchcock, Timothy, editor, LIA Guide to Non-beam Hazards Associated with Laser Use, Laser Institute of America, 1999
  • Trokel, Stephen L., M.D., editor, LIA Guide to Medical Laser Safety, Laser Institute of America, 1997 

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