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Non-Beam Hazards

While beam hazards (exposure to the laser beam) are the most prominent laser hazards, other hazards pose an equal or possibly greater risk of injury or death. To date we have not melted anyone with a laser beam, but we have had laser users electrocuted and patients die from operating room fires with the laser as the heat or ignition source. As laser technologies applications expand further into our society a greater number of associated or non-beam hazards will need to be considered to have a safe work place. Here are two examples, at a construction site which is the greater hazard to the worker the alignment laser used in a trench or a lack of adequate bracing of the trench, which could cave in and cause a workers death. When laying an optical fiber for communications, is it confined work in a manhole or the laser fiber one should be more concerned about? Clearly one must always be aware of hazards associated with an activity. The number one associated hazard with laser use is the possible electrical hazard.

The long list of associated hazards can be broken down into hazard categories. Physical, Chemical, Biological, Mechanical, Ergonomic/ Human Factors. The LSO and user need not be an expert in these areas, but needs to be aware that such hazards exist and be alert for them. Once determined the appropriate safety specialists should perform a proper evaluation. In some cases the user has grown so accustomed to the hazards around them, they may not even occur to them if asked to list work place hazards, an example might be dyes solvents and organic dyes.

Here is a partial list of Nonbeam hazards and some examples you may know of:

Physical

ITEM POSSIBLE SOURCE
Noise Constant pinging of pulse laser
Pressure Vacuum chamber, gas cylinders
Incoherent radiation Broadband light source
X-rays Target interaction
High temperature Ovens in lab
Low temperature Cryogenic use
Electricity power supplies

Chemical

ITEM POSSIBLE SOURCE
Toxic substances Laser dyes
Carcinogenic substances solvents
Irritant substances Samples
Dust & particulates Crack optics
Fire From ignition

Biological

ITEM POSSIBLE SOURCE
Microbiological Organism From target interaction
Viruses released from target interactions

Mechanical

ITEM POSSIBLE SOURCE
Trailing cables & pipes Housekeeping
Sharp edges razor blades
Moving parts
Water- high-pressure Cooling lines

Ergonomic

ITEM POSSIBLE SOURCE
Workstation layout Hitting head on table shelves
Manual handling Lifting of lasers
Person-machine interface Robotic work
Shift patterns working too many hours