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Laser
Laser

Precis

(Revised 20 November 2017)

The word LASER is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation which describes the process by which lasers generate visible, ultraviolet (UVR) or infrared (IR) emissions.

The light produced by a laser has very different properties to that produced by other sources (such as the sun, light bulbs and fluorescent or neon tubes). Laser light is monochromatic (a single wavelength) and typically confined to a narrow beam which spreads only slightly with distance. Thus the energy carried by a laser beam is concentrated in a small area and can travel efficiently over large distances, giving laser radiation a far greater potential to cause injury than light from other sources.

15.1 Referenced documents:

WHS Regulation 2011

AS/NZS IEC 60825.3:2016 – Safety of laser products – Guidance for laser displays and shows

These AS were superseded by AS/NZS IEC 60825

Code of practice for the safe use of lasers in the entertainment industry

AS/NZS 2211.1:2004 – Safety of laser products – Equipment classification, requirements and user’s guide

AS/NZS 2211.3:2002 – Safety of laser products – Guidance for laser displays and shows

AS/NZS 2211.4:2002 – Safety of laser products – Laser guards

International information, for background information only:

HSG95 – The radiation safety of lasers used for display purposes (UK)

15.2 Definitions

15.2.1 WHS Regulation Clause 223 Lasers

  • This clause applies to the person with management or control, at a workplace, of laser equipment that may create a risk to health and safety.
  • The person must ensure that laser equipment intended for use on plant is designed, constructed and installed so as to prevent accidental irradiation of any person.
  • The person must ensure that laser equipment on plant is protected so that any operator of the plant or other person is not exposed to direct radiation, radiation produced by reflection or diffusion or secondary radiation.
  • The person must ensure that the visual equipment used for the observation or adjustment of laser equipment on plant does not create a risk to health or safety from laser rays.
  • The person must ensure that the workers operating the laser equipment are trained in the proper operation of the equipment.
  • The person must ensure that Class 3B and Class 4 lasers (within the meaning of AS 2397:1993—Safe use of lasers in the building and construction industry) are not used in construction work.

In Victoria, lasers are regulated under Part 3.5 (Plant) of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 2007.

In WA, The Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 require that employers, main contractors and self-employed persons ensure lasers or laser products are not operated at a workplace unless classified and labelled in accordance with AS 2211.

15.2.2 Types of display laser

Laser type Main wavelwngths (nm) Other wavelengths (nm)
Argon-ion

Copper vapour

 

Dye

Helium-Cadmium

Helium-Neon

Krypton-ion

‘Mixed gas’ [i]

 

Neodymium-YAG

488 (blue/green) and 514.5 (green)

510.6 and 578.2

 

Various

441.6 (blue)

632.8 (red)

647.1 (red)

 

1064 (infrared)

457.9 (blue) and 467.5 (blue)

 

 

 

325 (Ultraviolet)

530.9 (yellow/green) and 676.4 (red)

(See Argon and Krypton-ion spectral lines)

Frequency doubled to 532 (yellow/green)

[1] Used extensively in large installations to produce full colour displays.

 

15.2.2.a Helium-Neon (He-Ne) lasers

producing red light with output powers typically up to 10 mW (Class 3B) are commonly used with scanning optics to produce moving geometrical patterns, such as Lissajous figures or ‘writing’ on screens, at smaller venues.

15.2.2.b Argon lasers,

producing blue/green light, are used in many situations where higher powers are required. Undivided beams emitted from such lasers are often scanned by personal computer or PC controlled servo-mounted optics (often referred to as ‘galvos’). Powers ranging between 0.05 and 4 watts are frequently found in discotheques and clubs whereas outdoor displays may use systems capable of emitting tens of watts.

15.2.2.c Krypton lasers (often tens of watts),

producing principally red but also yellow and green light, are frequently used with or in place of Argon lasers in situations where high power is needed to project emissions over large distances. Outdoor display installations are an example of such applications.

15.2.2.d Dye lasers (typically up to a few watts)

may also be met occasionally. They are often used in conjunction with Argon lasers. Although such lasers could be used in stageshows and nightclubs, they are not yet commonplace at these venues. But their ability to produce emissions of any colour will undoubtedly ensure their increasing development and use.

15.2.3 Spectator:

person who is nominally present to enjoy the show. NOTE: Spectators can neither be expected to be briefed in safety procedures nor be expected to fully understand laser safety.

15.2.3.a Spectator Zone

Area in which spectators from where the show may be viewed or enjoyed such as a dancefloor. The Spectator Zone extends to 6 metres above the floor level where people may stand such as a dancefloor, tiered seating stands and other raised areas.

The Spectator Zone extends to areas where ancillary personnel such as security staff, ushers, F&B staff, etc. work or may be present.

15.2.3.b Spectator Zone Limit (SZL)

Maximum level of ambient laser radiation permissible in a spectator zone

15.2.4 Performer:

Persons who entertain the spectators during the show. They may be singers, dancers, actors, musicians, DJ’s, etc. NOTE: Performers are expected to have received instructions on laser safety and are expected to reasonably comply with laser safety systems.

15.2.4.a Performer Zone

Area where only performers and personnel such as technical crew and other professionals may be present after receiving laser safety instructions. The Performer Zone may exceed the SZL laser radiation level.

15.2.5 Maximum Permissible Exposure (MPE)

Under no circumstance should any person be exposed to laser radiation in excess of applicable skin or eye MPE.

15.2.6 What are the potential hazards associated with lasers?

Laser beams may cause damage to eyes or skin. The risk of eye injury from laser light and heat is particularly of concern as eyes focus and intensify light entering them. Repeated exposure to relatively low powered lasers, or from a single exposure to medium powered lasers may cause long term damage to sight or minor damage to skin. Exposure to high level lasers may cause depigmentation, severe burns and possible damage to underlying organs. High-powered lasers may also cause fire hazards.

Lasers may produce hazards from airborne contaminants released during laser use, collateral radiation, high voltage electricity, cryogenic coolants and flying particles during laser cutting or welding.

15.2.7 How is the hazard of a laser rated?

Lasers are classified according to the hazard associated with their emissions, as defined in the Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS IEC 60825.1:2014 Safety of Laser Products Part 1: Equipment classification and requirements, AS/NZS IEC 60825.14:2011 Safety of Laser Products Part 14: A User’s guide.

  • Class 1 and 1M lasers are safe under reasonably foreseeable conditions of operation. Class 1M can be hazardous if the beam is viewed with Magnifying optical instruments (hence the letter ‘M’ is added).
  • Class 2 and 2M lasers emit visible light at higher levels than Class 1, but eye protection is provided by aversion responses such as the human blink reflex. Class 2M lasers can be hazardous if the beam is viewed directly with magnifying optical instruments.
  • Class 3R lasers produce visible and invisible light that are hazardous under direct viewing conditions. There is low risk for eye injury provided the exposure time is short. There is no risk for skin injury.
  • Class 3B lasers produce visible or invisible light that is hazardous under direct viewing conditions; either they are powerful enough to cause eye damage in a time shorter than the human blink reflex (0.25 seconds) or the blink reflex is by-passed due to the invisibility of the beam. Laser products with power output near the upper range of Class 3B may also cause skin burns.
  • Class 4 lasers are high power devices capable of causing both eye and skin burns, their diffuse reflections may also be hazardous and the beam may constitute a fire hazard.

15.2.8 Role of Laser Safety Officer (LSO)

It is a requirement of AS/IEC 60825.1:2011 that a Laser Safety Officer (LSO) be appointed in installations where class 3B & 4 laser products are used.

In summary the LSO will be responsible for:

  • Assisting with risk assessment
  • Approving Standard Operating Procedures
  • Maintaining records
  • Identifying local laser hazard risk areas
  • Ensuring that appropriate safety precautions are taken

The laser show provider assigns a Laser Safety Officer to establish a laser safety program designed to address all the possible risks of using lasers in open beam path settings; procedural control measures, including use of the laser system’s lowest power setting possible for alignment and zoning, must also be set.

Engineering controls are always the preferred method of risk mitigation. Projectors are required to have emission indicators that light up when a laser is active and interlock switches to prevent lasers from firing if the projector housing is opened. Each projector must have proper labelling, such as a warning label at aperture to warn against looking into the aperture. Once laser systems are mounted properly, the beams must be tuned to where they will be propagated during the show, avoiding areas that could directly hit audience members.

15.2.9 Safety precautions

15.2.9.a Dangers of show lasers

Lasers have been classified by wavelength and maximum output power into four classes and a few subclasses since the early 1970s. The classifications categorize lasers according to their ability to produce damage in exposed people, from Class 1 (no hazard during normal use) to Class 4 (severe hazard for eyes and skin). Laser classification is determined from maximum power (in W) or energy (in J) that can be emitted in a specified wavelength range and exposure time that passes through a specified aperture stop at a specified distance. Classification results are based on the maximum permissible exposure. Safety requirements and recommendations are based on classification and control measures.

With rare exceptions, if you can see a laser beam (larger than a dot on the floor or wall) you can assume it is a Class 3b or Class 4 laser system. Class 4 lasers require the most control measures with the goal of eliminating all risk of human exposure. Class 3b and Class 4 lasers are not usually considered safe for use in an open beam path setting because there is risk of serious biological injury, particularly relating to the eye.

Australian /New Zealand Standard AS/NZS IEC 60825.1:2011 Safety of laser products and IEC 60825.3:2016 Safety of laser products – Guidance for laser displays and shows gives details of control procedures for the use of the various classes of laser installations.

15.2.10 Risk Assessment and Control

See also Chapter 2 – Risk Management and Planning

15.2.10.a Risk assessment

A risk assessment shall be undertaken prior to a laser being first used or after it has been modified. The assessment should take into account at least the following:

  • The capability of the laser to injure personnel
  • An evaluation of the suitability of the laser for the work
  • The environment in which the laser is used.
  • The hazards involved and the associated risks
  • The level of training required for operators, other technical crew and performers.

A written report of the risk assessment should be retained by the local Laser Safety Officer.

15.2.10.b Risk Control Methods

Details of risk control methods should include:

  • Engineering controls
  • Administrative controls
  • Training
  • Inspection
  • Emergency procedures
  • Reporting of accidents involving radiation

15.2.11 Display Safety Record

The Laser Safety Officer should maintain at the show site a Display Safety Record (DSR) containing all relevant information about the laser safety systems in place.

15.2.12 Electrical Hazards

The voltages used in lasers are sufficient to cause fatal injuries to personnel. All electrical equipment associated with laser equipment should be installed in conformance to AS/NZS 3000 Electrical installations (known as the Australian / New Zealand Wiring Rules).

All doors and access panels should be properly secured, either electrically or mechanically, to prevent access by unauthorised personnel to electrical components, especially those operating at the laser excitation potential. Usually, the best source of safety information is provided in the instruction manual from the manufacturer of the laser system. Always read, understand and follow the manufacturer’s recommended safety procedures.

15.3 Outdoor laser shows

Lasers and high-intensity lights like sky trackers, pose a serious risk to pilots which can result in difficulties flying and impaired vision. It takes only a fraction of a second to cause flash blindness or ocular damage, even if the aircraft is travelling quite quickly.

Any person or organisation wishing to conduct a laser or high-intensity light show must notify CASA.

15.3.1 Application process

  • Complete Form 1584 – Proposal to conduct laser or light operations form.
  • Forward the completed form to your CASA regional office.
  • CASA will review your application and will contact you if further details are required.
  • You will be notified of the CASA decision and any conditions may apply.

Please contact your CASA office regarding the time required for the application to be processed.