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Deaths from laser use in industry and medicine have primarily been the result of electrocution, while injuries have been primarily to eyes. In an effort to cut the number of these deaths and injuries, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) called for facilities using lasers to have a Laser Safety Officer.
The responsibility of a Laser Safety Officer is to supervise and uphold the control of laser hazards and issue an up-to-date evaluation and control of laser hazards.
The laser safety officer is responsible for the entire laser-safety program. His duties include but are not restricted to items such as laser classification, performing the Nominal Hazard Zone (NHZ) evaluation, making sure that appropriate control measures are in place as well as approving alternate controls. His responsibilities include approving standard operating rules, recommending and/or approving protective eyewear and other personal protective equipment. He also specifies appropriate signs and labels, approves overall facility controls, provides the correct laser safety training as needed, conducts medical evaluations, and designates both laser and incidental staff.
The laser safety officer should have detailed training that includes fundamentals of laser: the bioeffects of lasers, limits of laser exposure, classification of lasers, and Nominal Hazard Zone calculations. Training of the safety officer must also include control measures (including area access controls, personal protective eyewear, and barriers) and appropriate medical surveillance requirements.
In most manufacturing environments, the functions of the laser safety officer likely will be part-time, depending on the number of lasers and amount of activity of the lasers. Generally, this part-time classification has the safety activity done by a person in the industrial hygiene department or a laser engineer with laser-safety duties.
Some firms create an internal laser policy and carry out standard safety practices along with their own company requirements for safety of laser use.
Alan Edwards began writing in 2005. He is a retired pharmaceutical industry analyst, a career that allowed him to hone his research and writing skills. Edwards holds a Master of Business Administration in health care from Xavier University in Cincinnati and a Bachelor of Arts in economics from the University of Pittsburgh. Now, he writes full-time.