By Geoff Giordano

Dr. Ben Rockwell, third-time chairman of the LIA’s 2013 International Laser Safety Conference, loves his job.

“It has been an excellent experience where I get to invite the quality people out there trying to broaden our horizons and bring to ILSC® the cutting-edge latest and greatest in the laser safety field,” says Rockwell, who is also chairman of the subcommittee that develops the ANSI Z136.1 Safe Use of Lasers standard. “Early on when I went to the ILSC conference back in the ‘90s, I recall learning from the giants in the field and also the opportunity to interact and network with the people who are experts and upcoming experts in the laser safety industry.”

Rockwell plans another cutting-edge four-day session in Orlando, FL on March 18-21, 2013. He will ensure that ILSC again covers a broad range of must-have information.

“At the last ILSC (2011) we had a special session devoted to high-intensity light sources, which are not necessarily laser systems but are being applied widely and have similar analysis techniques as a laser system,” Rockwell says. “LSOs are usually involved in evaluating those systems, so we brought the latest in what are the common characteristics of those systems and how they’re applied. They’re usually used in a medical setting where they do a dermal treatment for things like age spots and scars on tissues. The LSO can gain understanding and also an idea of how they can apply the laser safety standard to those particular systems.”

Another element of ILSC’s unique appeal besides its diverse content is its diverse audience. More than 200 people attended the 2011 conference.

“One can learn about future changes of the laser safety standards before they are published,” says Laser Safety Scientific Sessions Chair Dr. Karl Schulmeister of Austria’s Seibersdorf Laboratories. “Obviously it is also a great platform to meet and exchange ideas in a much larger group of experts than at a laser safety course. The exhibition by vendors and manufacturers is a good way to learn about new products related to laser safety.”

Schulmeister has been involved with ILSC since 1996 in various roles. Among the trends that ILSC has addressed and will continue to address, he notes, include:

  • High-power fiber lasers with long focal length delivery to the workpiece, which present a challenge for laser guards and enclosures.
  • Hand-held materials-processing lasers.
  • Laser consumer products and laser pointers.

Significant discussion is also likely regarding the impact of the newly published ANSI Z136.3 Safe Use of Lasers in Health Care standard and the ANSI Z136.8 Safe Use of Lasers in Research, Development, or Testing standard. Both are available from LIA at www.lia.org/store as well as the ANSI Z136.1 and IEC 60825-1 standards.

With Rockwell at the helm of ILSC, expect a comprehensive look at the particulars of those critical guidelines.

“I work with the bioeffects standards community and ask them for areas in which they need more data, then I collect that data; it helps in determining the maximum permissible exposure levels,” he notes. “If there are any changes up and coming, I like to make sure the changes are based on real physical phenomena that occur. We do the analysis and experiments to determine how the laser system that we have can help out the laser safety standards. On a more practical level I use the laser safety standards.” In his role as principal research physicist at the Air Force Research Lab in San Antonio, Texas, “we have a large number of labs with Class 4 laser systems with a wide variety of pulse durations, exposure durations and wavelengths, and we apply the laser safety standard that I helped write.”

Medical PAS

ILSC will again feature a two-day Medical Practical Application Seminar (PAS).

On the medical side, attendees will learn the basics like the best way to perform safety and hazard calculations and the ideal way for Laser Safety Officers to select standards and include their personal interpretations in applying them. But they’ll also get more advanced topics like the study of fume extraction and the latest maximum permissible exposure changes, and how those are relevant to the bioeffects that occur in humans.

“We are very excited about the educational opportunities to be presented at the 2013 ILSC conference,” says Vangie Dennis, chair of the two-day Medical PAS. “Highlighted topics will be the 2011 ANSI (Z136.3) standard. Paralleling that lecture will be an overview of the 2011 Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) Recommended Practices for Laser Safety in Perioperative Practice Settings. The recommended practices from AORN focus on clinical applicable practice while optimizing laser safety by essentials of appropriate hazard assessment with a patient focus. New and innovative types of laser systems will be discussed, and new services are continually transitioning. We’ll always have a section on aesthetics because that industry changes quicker than anything.”

Dennis says new and evolving laser systems in medical practice include:

  • Femto systems for cataract surgery.
  • Gastroenterology procedures that are taking technology that worked well in a ureter and applying that to the bile duct using the SpyGlass Direct Visualization System.
  • Cardiovascular techniques in which an external laser is used to cut a rotary route in conjunction with balloon angioplasty or the Angio Jet. “It’s a combination technology that optimizes outcomes,” explains Dennis, RN, BSN, CNOR, CMLSO, administrative director for the Spivey Station Surgery Center outside Atlanta.

Technical PAS

“In the past several years, ILSC has undergone a little bit of a transformation,” says Ben Rockwell. “We’ve tried to make it go more from a technical conference to include more practical applications. In the upcoming ILSC, we’ll have two days devoted solely to what we’re calling the technical practical applications seminar — that’s the way it was in the 2011 conference. On those two days we present the application of the standards, an understanding of how to do measurements, analysis and control measures, and an understanding of how light interacts with all those things and how a Laser Safety Officer (LSO) can execute a cutting-edge professional laser safety program in their facility.”

In the Technical PAS, Chair Ben Edwards will stress “giving a boost” to LSOs on the front lines: professionals with laser safety responsibilities in labs, factories, classrooms and outdoor environments. The recession and its lingering effects mean that almost all LSOs outside the federal government have other primary job duties — so they don’t have the luxury of focusing exclusively on laser safety.

“A primary goal of the 2013 Technical PAS will be to provide laser safety professionals with a set of ready-to-use tools designed to immediately improve their laser safety program, with an emphasis on high-impact approaches that maximize their return on time and effort invested,” says Edwards, MS, CLSO, CMLSO, CHP, radiation safety officer at Vanderbilt University.

Given the sweeping adoption of lasers for so many disparate uses, LSOs of today and the future need all the information they can get to stay abreast of developments.

“Lasers continue to grow smaller, cheaper and more powerful, so that today we are confronted with extremely compact — sometimes even portable — and often inexpensive lasers that are nonetheless extremely powerful and quite dangerous,” Edwards notes. “The size (or price) of a laser no longer provides any indication of its relative hazard.” As a consequence, “The international marketplace has been flooded by inexpensive, low-quality but high-power laser products that may not comply with the product performance standards specified by regulatory requirements. LSOs may now discover that cost-conscious users have brought into the workplace lasers with hidden hazards and lacking even the most basic safety features.”

Attendees can expect sessions of one-and-a-half hours, allowing six sessions in two days. “Several formats have been used over the years,” Edwards explains. “The best approaches engage the participants, either with extremely timely discussions of significant emerging topics (e.g., the one-watt hand-held laser presentation at the 2011 ILSC), or by inviting the audience into small discussion groups that allow everyone to participate in lively exchanges of information. In either case, panelists provide recognized technical expertise, a wide variety of experience and the willingness to encourage audience participation.”

ILSC Neworking

But as Rockwell noted, networking is also a significant part of the ILSC experience. A welcome reception will help orient new attendees and allow peers to catch up before digging in to the technical sessions. A sponsor reception will foster discussion of products, ideas, opportunities and practical solutions. For more information regarding ILSC 2013 sponsorship opportunities, please visit www.lia.org/conferences/ilsc/sponsors. ILSC also features a pair of luncheons — one “hot topic” event featuring a moderated panel discussion, and an awards event featuring presentation of the George M. Wilkening Award and the R. James Rockwell Jr. Educational Achievement Award.

The call for papers to be presented at ILSC is in full force, the first deadline being Oct. 3 for abstract submissions; manuscripts will be due Jan. 17. Abstracts must be 100 to 200 words. For more information about submitting papers, registering to attend ILSC, or for updates regarding certification maintenance points, visit www.lia.org/ ilsc.

 

Geoff Girodano is a freelance writer.