By: Geoff Giordano

 

With more therapeutic procedures moving into private medical offices and homes, the standard regulating the safe use of lasers in health care has undergone a much-needed update to ensure users, as well as patients, are protected.

The revised “ANSI Z136.3 Safe Use of Lasers in Health Care” publication defines the parameters of proper laser use outside the tightly regulated hospital environment. Formerly titled the “American National Standard for Safe Use of Lasers in Health Care Facilities,” the revision released in January includes new guidelines and information on:

•Wavelengths employed in medical environments. While some lasers are no longer listed, at least four new wavelengths have been added.

•The duties of laser safety officers involved with rented or borrowed laser equipment.

•Audit requirements and procedures.

•Clinically relevant terminology.

The comprehensive ANSI Z136.3 standard, reformatted to be more reader-friendly, addresses everything from laser systems hazard classification, to protective equipment, to non-beam hazards and room design. One of six ANSI Z136 laser safety standards in use, the revised ANSI Z136.3 standard serves to “acknowledge the diversity of laser therapy applications and practice setting locations,” according to Peter Baker, LIA’s executive director.

“The change is quite significant in that previous versions looked at the location in which a laser was used,” notes Barbara Sams, director of standard development. “This change, instead of looking to the specific location, is looking at the application being administered by people for any type of health-care related purpose.”

“In this revision, more consideration is given to the people using the laser,” she continues. “The patient comes first, of course. However, when a patient is being operated on, they could be under anesthesia, they should have the proper protection over their eyes; they’re protected. A greater focus has been placed on the people who are actually in the room using the laser — the surgeons, nurses, technicians, anesthesiologists, extending to veterinarians, laser hair removal facilities and even home use.”

The new standard “is a must-read for every LSO and facility providing laser-based therapy,” says Sue Terry, registered nurse and ANSI Z136.3 subcommittee member. “It is a pleasure to see that sample forms and documentation records remain a part of the appendix. These examples have long proven to be beneficial when establishing or revising a laser safety program.”

Fellow committee member Patti Owens, also a registered nurse and certified medical laser safety officer, is equally excited about the revision. “As an experienced LSO in a hospital, dermatology practice and recently as an aesthetic/medical consultant, I am looking forward to … the new ANSI Z136.3 standard,” she enthuses. “My clinics are already being advised of the upcoming changes and will begin the implementation phase.”

The new standard is serving its vital purpose across a broader range of therapeutic uses. For example, the Association of Surgical Technologists will review the new guidelines to inform the update of the AST’s “Recommended Standards of Practice for Laser Safety,” says Kevin Frey, director of continuing education for the organization.

In the meantime, veterinary medicine has finally seen its laser-use needs addressed.

“There was a seven-year effort to have veterinary medicine included in the .3 document as well as included as an appendix,” says Kenneth Bartels, who serves as the American Veterinary Medical Association’s liaison to ASC Z136. “These inclusions were considered a priority since in some medical circles, laser use in veterinary medicine was considered totally different (from other uses). Laser manufacturers that market to veterinarians have for the most part provided excellent outlines for the safe use of their devices in veterinary medicine in the respective operator manuals. With the new .3 guidelines, for some manufacturers those efforts may be intensified.”

LIA, the recognized industry leader in laser advocacy and safety education since 1968, serves as secretariat of the Z136 series of laser safety standards, administering the process and providing clerical support to the committee. To order the ANSI Z136 .3 revision ($130 for LIA members, $150 for non-members), visit www.lia.org/ANSI.3 or call LIA at 1.800.34.LASER.