UAW Recognizes Need for Laser Safety Training

ORLANDO, FL, October 3, 2011 — A key new auto-industry labor agreement stipulating increased laser-safety training for employees underscored the timeliness of the Laser Institute of America’s (LIA) safety program at the inaugural Lasers for Manufacturing Event (LME).

On the same day the United Auto Workers (UAW) union ratified a four-year contract with General Motors, LIA Education Director Gus Anibarro enlightened over 100 LME attendees about the hazards of certain lasers and the proper methods for avoiding worker injuries. Such training is becoming increasingly important as major industries — automotive, aerospace, medical and others — incorporate lasers in more and more manufacturing applications involving cutting, welding and drilling. 

“The most hazardous class, which is probably your working laser, is a Class 4,” Anibarro told the audience. “Class 4 lasers are hazardous from direct viewing, specular mirrorlike surface and diffuse reflections. They also are a fire hazard, and they can produce laser-generated air contaminants when the beam interacts with the material you’re cutting or welding with. Class 4 lasers, like Class 3B, also require a laser safety officer.”

Anibarro further educated attendees about how lasers can damage the eye’s lens, cornea and retina, as well as the skin. He also stressed the non-beam hazards of lasers, such as fumes, electrical, compressed gas or plasma radiation dangers, as well as how to control those issues with steel or polycarbonate enclosures, curtains, proper eyewear and signage.

Those are the types of injuries the UAW is aiming to avoid in its agreement with GM. “Due to the potential for catastrophic injuries from lasers, the UAW bargaining team pushed hard to expedite safety training in this growing field,” according to the UAW’s website. “Within 30 days of ratification, the UAW-GM Health and Safety Training Department will schedule a train-the-trainer (T3) Laser Safety Awareness Training course to be taught at the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources.”

The LME workshop, geared exclusively to bringing laser engineers together with cutting-edge laser makers, made its debut Sept. 27-28 in Schaumburg, IL, and is the first such event in North America. The event drew nearly 800 attendees, 70 exhibitors and leading industry experts.

Since its founding in 1968, LIA has been the primary source for laser-safety training in the U.S.:

• LIA has trained OSHA inspectors and thousands of laser-safety officers through its one-to-three-day courses. The association produced a laser-safety DVD titled “Mastering Light” that helps LIA-trained safety officers train others.

• LIA’s “Guide for the Selection of Laser Eye Protection,” updated in 2007, details American National Standards Institute (ANSI) guidelines from ANSI Z136.1 and all new information regarding available laser safety eyewear and eye-protection products.

• LIA offers a free optical density (OD) calculator on its website (https://lia.org/evaluator/od.php) to help users know which properly graded protective eyewear to purchase and wear. The calculator is a free component of The Evaluator, LIA’s exclusive web-based laser hazard analysis system.

• In 2005, through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Alliance, LIA joined with OSHA to ensure safe laser working environments.

• The organization has shared information with the Food and Drug Administration regarding lasers and radiological health and wrote a brief to help Texas lawmakers revamp the state’s safety regulations.

For more information about LIA’s full range of laser-safety resources or to register for training, visit http://lia.org/education.

About LIA

Laser Institute of America (LIA) is the professional society for laser applications and safety serving the industrial, educational, medical, research and government communities throughout the world since 1968. LIA is the secretariat and publisher of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z136 series of laser safety standards. For more information, visit www.lia.org.