The University of Chicago

Environmental Health & Safety


Laser Safety

Do I have to register all of my lasers?

No, only Class 3b and Class 4 lasers are to be registered with the Laser Safety Officer. If you are creating a “homemade” laser system, contact the Office of Radiation Safety for assistance in assessing the laser class and hazard evaluation.

Do all of my students require laser safety training?

Faculty, staff, and students at the University of Chicago are required to receive laser safety training only if they can potentially be exposed to laser radiation emitted by a Class 3b or Class 4 laser system. It is left to the Principal Investigator / Instructor to determine who meets the criteria for mandatory training. Upon request, the Laser Safety Officer can assist in assessing the training needs of your laboratory personnel.

My laboratory uses high-powered Class 4 lasers for research purposes. Am I required to install illuminated signs, kill switches, and interlocks?

The University of Chicago adopts the ANSI Z136.1 standard for laser safety, which suggests interlocks for Class 3b lasers and requires them for Class 4 lasers. Any laser system employing alternative control measures, whether engineering, administrative, or procedural, in place of an illuminated sign or interlock MUST be approved by the Laser Safety Officer before implementation.

Do I need an eye exam in order to work with lasers?

The Laser Safety Program conducts medical surveillance of laser users on an as-needed basis; no baseline eye examination is required. New users are required to complete the Ocular History Questionnaire to facilitate this process. Any exposure of the eye to laser radiation, or suspected injury, must be reported to the Laser Safety Officer. Eye examinations may be required for individuals with previous laser injuries, medical conditions, or other potential hazards, at the discretion of the Laser Safety Officer.

Will the Laser Safety Officer contact me when I purchase a new laser?

Because the purchase of lasers is not regulated at federal or state levels, the Office of Radiation Safety is not notified when new lasers are shipped to campus. It is the responsibility of the Principal Investigator to notify the Laser Safety Officer when new lasers are purchased. The LSO will visit the laboratory after receiving a completed Laser Registration Form.

Must everyone in the laboratory wear protective goggles when lasers are in use?

Goggles must be worn in any area where resultant laser radiation exceeds the Maximum Permissible Exposure allowable to the eye. This area is designated as the Nominal Hazard Zone, and may extend a just few centimeters from the laser source, to distances of several meters and beyond. Laser users must complete the Hazard Calculation Form to determine the Nominal Hazard Zone for their laboratory space. In the event that the hazard calculation has not been performed, the entire laboratory space is designated as a nominal hazard zone. This is often the case for high-powered lasers’ beam paths which are not completely enclosed by curtains or other barriers.

Will my laboratory be inspected for laser safety?

The Office of Radiation Safety conducts an Annual Audit of all laboratories which have at least one operable, active laser or laser system. The Laser Safety Officer will contact the Principal Investigator or her/his designate to schedule a time and date for the visit. The auditor will review required documentation, inspect operable laser systems, inventory protective eyewear, observe postings, and evaluate potential hazards. The auditor will advise the laboratory of any corrective actions needed to achieve full safety and compliance. Although the Laser Safety Program does not include surprise inspections, the University Laser Safety Policy states that “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.”