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Working with lasers

Working with lasers involves certain risks. Almost all of the lasers in our laboratory are class IV: high-power lasers. These are the most dangerous lasers. A safe working environment requires training and discipline.

What are the risks?

A laser beam in the eye can cause partial or complete blindness and cause nasty (subcutaneous) burns on the skin. Laser dyes are often carcinogenic and the maintenance of lasers is associated with electrical risks.

Risks of laser light

Both the direct and reflected laser beam can be dangerous for the eyes and skin. Lenses and mirrors can further increase the power and energy density. Prevent accidents by obeying the rules.

Risks of chemicals and gasses used

Laser dyes are often carcinogenic. Also the solvents used for these are often toxic and sometimes carcinogenic. See also: working with dangerous substances and gasses

Electrical risks of lasers

During maintenance activities in particular, there is an increased risk of parts being live. Use earth rods to discharge large condensers, see also: working with electricity.

What do I need to look out for while working with a laser?

You may only work with a laser after you have obtained permission from your supervisor. Make sure you know the local laser safety rules.

You should at least obey the following rules:

  • the sign 'Laser on' means no entry; 
  • for each new set-up check with your supervisor that the laser does not pose any threat to either you or others; 
  • make sure you know where the emergency stop is; 
  • do not set up the laser at eye height; 
  • wear laser safety goggles as much as possible, make sure these have the right filter;
  • never look directly into the beam even if you are wearing laser safety goggles; 
  • shield off all beam reflections; 
  • do not wear reflective jewellery; 
  • make sure there are enough beam dumps to block possible reflections; 
  • during the prolonged use of beams wear hand and wrist protection; 
  • only laser workers may enter the laser lab. 

Safety measures when working with laser chemicals and gasses

  • Only keep dyes (both the powder and the dissolved form) in a ventilated safety cupboard.
  • Take all necessary precautions for the weighing out of dyes, spill no powders, do not let the dye in any form come into contact with the skin. 
  • Keep the balances clean or clean these immediately after use. 
  • Dispose of used tissues, dye or dye remnants and spilled dye in the dye waste container. Dispose of this as chemical waste. 
  • See also: working with dangerous substances and gasses.
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