OSHA Renews Alliance to Protect Workers from Lasers

By Roy Maurer Jan 7, 2015

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has renewed an alliance with the Laser Institute of America to help protect workers from laser hazards in primarily industrial, construction, medical and research workplaces.

The alliance, initially signed in 2005, will produce training programs and guidance for employers on how to avoid these hazards. The organizations will also “explore and implement a means to evaluate the effectiveness” of the laser safety training programs.

“Workers unprotected from laser exposure can suffer serious eye and skin injuries including permanent blindness and tissue damage,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels in a press release. “We will continue to work together to produce valuable safety and health information and training to protect workers using laser technology.”

During the five-year alliance, participants will provide annual training through the Best Practices Seminar on Laser Safety, develop a webinar training program based on the seminar, and distribute laser safety guidance products at safety conferences.

OSHA and the Laser Institute of America previously developed fact sheets on the effects of lasers on the eyes and skin, hazards associated with using high-power welders and cutters, and materials for use during hazard analysis of workplaces with lasers.

The alliance also developed a guidance document outlining 10 steps necessary to begin a laser safety program in the health industry, and conducted several seminars that trained more than 500 OSHA-compliance personnel on what to look for and ask when entering facilities that use lasers.

Laser Safety Best Practices

According to the American National Standards Institute’s Safe Use of Lasers in Health Care (ANSI Z136.3), employers must provide a safety program that includes employee training. The following steps can help you develop a medical laser safety program that complies with the standard.

  • Appoint a laser safety officer and define roles and responsibilities for the position.
  • Train the designated officer. According to the standard, the employer shall provide training on the potential hazards and controls of medical laser systems.
  • Write a laser safety policy statement and develop the details of a laser safety program.
  • Take an inventory of all class 3B and class 4 lasers.
  • Identify which lasers are current on their preventive maintenance and which lasers are compliant with the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health federal requirements. If the lasers are not compliant, contact the manufacturer.
  • Perform a laser hazard assessment of each operating room.
  • Evaluate, document and control nonbeam hazards such as laser generated air contaminants.
  • Write standard operating procedures and maintenance procedures for all laser systems.
  • Implement control measures for the control of beam and nonbeam hazards.
  • Authorize laser personnel and implement training.
  • Audit the program to ensure effectiveness.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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