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Laser Hazards and Procautions

Laser use can create intense concentrations of heat, ultraviolet, infrared, and reflected light radiation. Unprotected laser exposure may result in eye injuries including retinal burns, cataracts, and permanent blindness. An appropriate eye protection must be used at all times when working with lasers. The selection of laser protection should depend upon the lasers in use and the operating conditions.


Always protect the eyes from exposure to laser beams. Choose laser goggles with wavelength-specific lenses and opaque non-lens components. Eye exposure is most likely to occur during beam alignment. NEVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES LOOK DIRECTLY INTO THE LASER BEAM.



Learn rescue procedures for helping victims of apparent electric shock: kill the circuit; have someone call for emergency aid; remove the victim with a non-conductor if he is still in contact with the energized circuit; initiate artificial respiration immediately and continue until emergency medical personnel arrive.


Precautions to take:

  1. Install Ground Fault Interrupters (GFI) in laboratories in which lasers are used.
  2. Provide enclosures to prevent accidental contact with terminals, cables, and exposed electrical contacts. Provide a grounded metal enclosure that is locked/interlocked.
  3. Remove nearby flammable/combustible materials to limit fuel in the event of fire.
  4. Never handle electrical equipment when hands, feet, or body are wet or perspiring or when standing on a wet floor.
  5. With high voltages, regard all floors as conductive and grounded unless covered with a well maintained, dry rubber matting of a type suitable for electrical work.
  6. When possible, use only one hand when working on a circuit or control device.
  7. Avoid wearing rings, metallic watchbands, and other metallic objects.


Always consider other hazards such as compressed gases, explosion, fire, x-ray radiation, laser dyes and solvents and mechanical hazards. Pay special consideration to ergonomic issues to avoid injury.

Serious eye damage can happen very quickly. If exposure occurs, call CUMC Public Safety at (212) 305-7979 and go directly to the New York-Presbyterian Hospital Emergency Room.