Laser Safety Awareness - Health Hazards

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Purpose of this module:

The following pages provide visitors (and non Class 3B or 4 laser users) with safety information regarding laser equipment and designated laser rooms. More specifically, you will learn about the potential health hazards related to lasers, recognize laser warning signs and labels and recognize the appropriate protective equipment when entering laser designated areas. (If you are a Class 3B or Class 4 laser user, you require more indepth training. more...)

Health Hazards:

Lasers produce concentrated light as visible, or invisible, laser beams. They typically cause damage to exposed tissue, such as eyes or skin, by focusing high amounts of energy onto a small area.

Eye Damage:
Lasers can cause damage to the cornea, lens, and retina of the eyes.

Diagram of eye

Skin Damage:
High power lasers (Class 4) can cause skin burns.

Burned skin from laser pointer

Laser Classifications:

Lasers are classified into four classes (and a few subclasses). The classes are based on the laser's ability to cause damage to exposed people, from Class 1 (no hazard during normal use) to Class 4 (severe hazard for eyes and skin).

Class 1 - No hazard to eyes under normal operations.

Class 1M - No hazard to eye unless laser beam is magnified with optical instruments (e.g. binoculars).

Class 2 - Can cause damage to eye if exposed beyond the duration of a normal eye blink (0.25 seconds).

Class 2M - Can cause damage to eye if exposed beyond the duration of a normal eye blink (0.25 seconds) or if magnified with optical instruments.

Class 3R - Can cause damage to eye from direct laser beam exposure if eye is focused on the laser beam.

Class 3B - Can cause damage to eye from direct laser beam exposure.

Class 4 - Can cause damage to eye and skin from direct laser beam and scattered laser beam exposures.


Class1 Laser System.  In this example the laser beam is fully enclosed. Since this type of laser poses no hazard to the eye, laser safety eyewear is not required.

Class 1 laser

Class 3B Laser System on an open bench: For this type of laser, WHEN LASER IS ON or LASER IN USE, all persons in the room must wear appropriate laser safety eyewear provided by laser safety trained personnel.

Class 3B Laser

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