Your Guide to Selecting the Right Laser Safety Standard

ASC Z136 logoAs more and more workplaces in the United States begin to implement laser technology, the need to stay on the leading edge of laser safety updates becomes more important. Laser Safety Officers (LSOs) know that the best way to stay informed about laser safety standards and practices is to become familiar with the American National Standards Institute’s (ANSI) Z136 series of laser safety standards.

Job shops, researchers and medical professionals want to prevent accidents. By following the ANSI standards, you are promoting a safe work environment while avoiding costly accidents and improving your overall safety footprint.

Having the laser safety standard most applicable to your profession is essential to maintaining a successful laser safety program. They are the only laser safety guidelines that are nationally accepted by a variety of organizations, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and The Joint Commission (TJC). And since the Laser Institute of America (LIA) serves as the publisher of the series, you can be confident that you are purchasing the most current laser safety information available.

The Z136 standards are revised after an extensive review process is completed to ensure that all information is correct and up-to-date. This process is led by one main committee, and further composed of an oversight committee, an editorial working group, five technical committees and 10 “standards” committees that are each responsible for a specific standard. Once a subcommittee has completed a standard, the other committees review the document — a process that can take several years.

Before publishing, the American National Standards Institute approves the document. However, ANSI does not approve the content. It approves the process by which the document was revised to “verify that the principles of openness and due process have been followed and that a consensus of all interested stakeholder groups has been reached.” Once ANSI has approved the document, the secretariat makes any necessary formatting and grammatical edits before being sent to print.

The most recent update to the laser safety standards is the ANSI Z136.6 Safe Use of Lasers Outdoors. The 2015 revision expands upon the previous version and hopes to meet the evolving needs of outdoor laser operators. Designed for use by laser-light show operators, scientific and astronomical research, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Defense, the revised ANSI Z136.6 provides guidance for the safe use of lasers and laser systems (180 nm to 1 mm) that could possibly be hazardous in outdoor environments where open-beam paths are necessary.

There are a number of additional Z136 laser safety standards available that cater to a variety of industries and professionals, not just those that use laser technology outdoors, including:

  • ANSI Z136.1 Safe Use of Lasers
  • ANSI Z136.2 Safe Use of Optical Fiber Communication Systems Utilizing Laser Diode and LED Sources
  • ANSI Z136.3 Safe Use of Lasers in Health Care
  • ANSI Z136.4 Recommended Practice for Laser Safety Measurements for Hazard Evaluation
  • ANSI Z136.5 Safe Use of Lasers in Educational Institutions
  • ANSI Z136.7 Testing and Labeling of Laser Protective Equipment
  • ANSI Z136.8 Safe Use of Lasers in Research, Development, or Testing
  • ANSI Z136.9 Safe Use of Lasers in Manufacturing Environments

As the parent document of the ANSI Z136 standards, Z136.1 is the number one seller and the standard that most laser safety officers purchase, according to Barbara Sams, the Executive Director of the Board of Laser Safety. This tool is essential for any LSO to have on hand.

In addition to this tool, having the laser safety standard that’s most applicable to your industry is another great way to keep your laser safety program current, as it can serve as both a reference tool and a guide for your laser safety initiatives. Because laser safety measures are different for each industry, control measures for one industry can be very different from another. In health care, you would use Z136.3; in manufacturing, you would use Z136.9; and so on. Control measures for one area of practice do not necessarily apply to the other.

If you are just now beginning your journey as a Laser Safety Officer, the Z136 standards are a great tool to have while you complete the necessary training and develop your laser safety program. Thesestandards provide protocols and procedures you can use to create a laser safety program in a facility that may not have had one before. By following the guidelines outlined in the standards, you are protecting your employees and satisfying OSHA requirements that state all employers must provide a safe workplace that meets a national consensus standard, in this case laser safety.

The photonics industry is ever-changing, and LIA is dedicated to helping LIA members and non-members alike get the resources they need to ensure their laser safety programs are safe and up-to-date. If you have purchased one of the Z136 standards in the past, LIA will send you an email notification when the standard is revised — allowing you to stay on the forefront of new laser safety information.

You may purchase any of the Z136 laser safety standards in print or digital format on LIA’s website. If you have any questions about the ANSI standards or LIA laser safety training options, you may contact us online.