Admit it. Lasers are cool. From Star Wars light sabers to laser shows at your favorite rock concert they have a way of capturing our attention. In addition to being so cool, lasers serve many useful purposes in the lab. They are often found integrated into research equipment such as FACS machines, or open on the research floor as part of medical and diagnostic device designs. As cool and useful as lasers are, they do carry with them several safety and regulatory concerns.
Laser use in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is regulated by 105 CMR 121.000. This regulation states certain requirements for different laser classes. Generally speaking, lasers that fall under classes 1-3R do not have many regulatory requirements. Lasers that are classified as 3B or 4 are inherently more hazardous to work with and must be registered by the state. In addition, various laser safety program elements are required to be implemented depending on the type of laser and how it is used. These may include baseline eye exams for laser users, selecting the appropriate laser safety eyewear, and the implementation of a laser safety committee and/or the appointment of a Laser Safety Officer.
Next time you are walking through your research space, keep an eye out for lasers that may be lurking in your lab. Integrating laser safety into your regular laboratory safety program may be a requirement for your facility.