The Department of Labor (DOL) regulates the use of lasers in New York State. In accordance with Part 50 of the New York Codes, Rules and Regulations (12 NYCRR 50), lasers must be registered with the DOL. The purpose of the regulation is to protect workers from the potential hazards associated with lasers in the workplace.
While there are some registration exemptions, such as an exemption for low-intensity lasers, the regulation also states that “low-intensity lasers exclusively used for research and development (R&D) shall be registered.” This has resulted in some confusion, because there are lasers in equipment that have safeguards such as interlocks or enclosures that would usually prevent exposure to the laser beam during normal operations. A laser cutter is an example of a laser with an interlock. Is this laser exempt from registration if used for R&D?
According to the DOL, higher class lasers (Classes 3B and 4) with interlocks used for R&D should be registered, even though the laser beam is completely enclosed during operations, and the risk of exposure to the laser during operations is low. For higher class lasers that are completely encased in equipment housing, the DOL might require laser registration if the equipment is used for R&D and has an opening (such as a door) where the laser could be visible. This can include certain flow cytometers and microscopes.
If R&D equipment requires laser registration, the employer or institution must designate a Laser Safety Officer (LSO) who must oversee the laser safety program. The LSO must provide qualifications in the registration, which usually includes documentation of appropriate training. While there are comprehensive LSO Training courses that are appropriate for certain laser systems, condensed LSO Training might be appropriate for R&D equipment that has a lower hazard risk.
The next time you are in your research facility, check your equipment for the laser symbol as it might require registration!
For additional information about laser registration and how it affects your facility, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This blog was written by Rae Moore, Safety Partners’ Quality, Research and Training Specialist.