By Geoff Giordano

ILSC_StandardOn the heels of significant revisions to two parent laser safety standards, the Laser Institute of America’s biennial International Laser Safety Conference (ILSC®) from March 23-26 in Albuquerque, NM, will again showcase the best user practices in industrial and medical photonics applications.

Chaired again by Ben Rockwell from Fort Sam Houston, TX, ILSC 2015 promises to devote significant time to focusing on new guidelines in the just-revised ANSI Z136.1-2014 and IEC 60825 standards for laser safety.

Rockwell, general chair of ILSC since 2007, ensures that the conference has “topics from the very basic, fundamental laser safety — for example, the best way to do calculations, the best way to read select standards and make your personal interpretations and apply those standards — to very advanced topics like fume extraction, what the latest maximum permissible exposure changes are, and how those are relevant to the bioeffects that really occur in the human.”

ILSC will follow its traditional format of Medical and Technical Practical Applications Seminars (PAS) and Laser Safety Scientific Sessions (LSSS). The industry leading experts in charge of those educational tracks promise a hard-hitting slate of trailblazing content.

EMP_9531At least four key issues confront the laser safety community at the moment, said John O’Hagan, general chair of the Laser Safety Scientific Sessions. “The first is the huge problem of laser products being imported from emerging markets at costs considerably below standard market prices. This may sound like good news for purchasers; however, many of the safety features we may expect are absent. Indeed, some laser products are very dangerous — not only because of potential access to laser beams, but also mechanical and electrical safety issues.”

Second, he said, is the growth of the market for home-use lasers ranging from pointers to devices for all sorts of cosmetic applications. “In the past, the labels provided some indication of the power of the laser beam. There is a lot of experience now of products being mislabeled. Although individual countries or regions may try to regulate the supply of such products, enforcement is challenging. Products may be imported by consumers direct or bought while on vacation. If they are incorrectly labeled, do enforcing authorities have the capability to check the emissions? We are seeing injuries to children who have acquired high-power lasers or who have been given them by their parents.”

Thirdly are the challenges of ever more powerful lasers used in materials processing, O’Hagan continued. “Traditional methods of laser safety management may not be appropriate. It is tempting to build fortresses around lasers, limiting their practical use. We need some lateral thinking to provide solutions that appropriately manage the risk.” Finally, he said, LSOs may be asked to comment on the safety of non-laser optical radiation sources. “The challenges are different, as are the risks, usually. Applying standard laser safety control measures to non-laser optical radiation sources is often over-restrictive. ILSC provides an opportunity to share practical experience.”

For the medical sessions, co-chairs Vangie Dennis and Leslie Pollard promise to keep attendees abreast of the “fast-moving future world of lasers in the medical/surgical field.” According to Pollard, “the amazing technological advancements under way in laser technology, optoelectronics, biophotonics, biochemistry, minimally invasive surgical techniques, cell biology, semiconductor technology and many other related areas will most certainly blaze the path and begin to incorporate the amazing characteristics of lasers and light technology.” Although lasers have been used in medicine and surgery for decades, “advancements in other areas of science and technology are beginning to allow laser technology to reach for potentials not available in the past. We have been patiently waiting for other technological advancements to allow us to truly engage the unique characteristics of laser light in medicine and surgery. This amazing era of technological science advancement and synergy has begun.”

ILSC 2015 will “offer today’s medical/surgical laser professional insights and tools for the challenges of today as well as continue to prepare the medical laser safety officer, laser engineer and medical laser professional for technological advancements and their impact on patient applications, medical laser program efficacy and laser safety,” Pollard asserted.

RCP_2034For Technical PAS chairman Tom Lieb, “we want to emphasize the practical things people need to get their job done.” He intends to cover not only the new Z136.1 standard, but the recently published Z136.8 guiding the safe user of lasers in research, development and testing and the Z136.9 for manufacturing environments. He aims to illustrate “what separates them from what we’ve done in the past and what is critical information for carrying on work as an LSO in industry.”

Ultimately, “ILSC has provided an excellent networking opportunity over the years,” O’Hagan said. “Where else can you meet and talk with some of the most experienced laser safety professionals in the world in one place?”

To learn more about ILSC 2015 and to register, visit www.lia.org/ilsc.