Safety Policies

SY17 Lasers

Policy Status: 


Subject Matter Expert: 

Aaron Wilmot, 863-3976,

Policy Steward: 

Assistant Vice-President for Police and Public Safety / Director of Environmental Health and Safety



To establish a policy to ensure the safe installation, operation,transfer, and disposal of lasers at all locations of the Pennsylvania State University, except the Hershey Medical Center.


  1. American National Standards Institute, Inc., American National Standard for the Safe Use of Lasers, Z136.1, Laser Institute of America.
  2. American National Standards Institute, Inc., American National Standard for the Safe Use of Lasers in EDUCATIONAL Institutions Z136.5, Laser Institute of America.
  3. American National Standards Institute, Inc., American National Standard for the Safe Use of Lasers Outdoors Z136.6, Laser Institute of America.
  4. Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 Food and Drugs Chapter I Food and Drug Administration Department of Health and Human Services Part 1040 Performance Standards for Light Emitting Products


  • LASER -- Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation - a device that produces radiant energy predominantly by stimulated emission. Laser radiation may be emitted as a continuous wave or as pulses.
  • LASER Hazard Classifications -- Lasers are classified in terms of their potential to cause biological damage. The pertinent parameters are: laser output energy or power, radiation wavelengths, exposure duration, and cross sectional area of the laser beam at the point of interest. The hazard classification of a laser, or laser system is determined as per American National Standards for the Safe Use of Lasers, Z136.1, Section 3.
  • Laser Safety Officer (LSO) -- One who has authority to monitor and enforce the control of laser hazards and effect the knowledgeable evaluation and control of laser hazards.
  • Supervisor -- The individual responsible for a laser.
  • User -- An individual engaged in work with a laser.


This policy applies to Class 3b lasers, Class 4 lasers, and Class 1 laser systems with embedded Class 3b or Class 4 lasers.


Supervisors and users of lasers are only permitted to install, operate, transfer or dispose of these devices if they comply with the requirements of this policy.


Environmental Health and Safety:

Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) is responsible for the oversight, implementation, coordination, and enforcement of the laser safety program for Penn State University. EHS will maintain an inventory of University owned or operated laser systems, will provide assistance in evaluating laser hazards, will evaluate lasers for conformance to these rules, will provide fundamental laser safety training, will provide oversight and guidance in the safe use of lasers, will conduct random audits of supervisor inspections of lasers, and will assist in accident investigations involving lasers.

EHS has the authority and duty to remove from service any laser system which poses an immediate danger to personnel.

EHS will appoint an appropriately trained staff member to be the University Laser Safety Officer.


Supervisors are responsible for the safe operation and maintenance of the lasers under their control, adhering to the requirements of this policy, immediately informing EHS of the acquisition, modification, transfer, or disposal of systems, developing written operating procedures for each laser system, providing training on those procedures to respective users, completing the fundamental laser safety training provided by EHS, ensuring that users of their laser have also completed the training, classifying and labeling all of their lasers, providing and assuring that all appropriate laser safety equipment is used, following-up on reports of unsafe conditions, ensuring work with the laser is suspended until the unsafe conditions are rectified, and completing and documenting the required inspections, that include but not limited to, laser specific information, administrative controls, and engineering controls.


Users of lasers are required to complete the laser safety training provided by EHS before beginning work with lasers, to follow written operating procedures, to perform all work in a safe manner and use approved personal protective equipment. Users are also responsible for reporting to the supervisor any unusual or unsafe condition they discover with the laser, and for suspending work with that laser until the unsafe condition is rectified. The user is responsible for immediately informing the supervisor in the event of any exposure to the laser.


All laser systems and applications shall have a hazard evaluation and be classified in accordance with ANSI Z136.1 as part of the registration process. This hazard analysis shall include evaluation of non-beam hazards. If the supervisor lacks the technical knowledge to perform this hazard analysis, contact the Laser Safety Officer for assistance. Each laser system must have a standard operating procedure available to users during use. Engineering and administrative controls, including warning signs and labels, along with personnel protective equipment must be selected based on the classification and hazard evaluation in accordance with ANSI Z136.1. The supervisor is responsible for inspecting each laser system annually and that inspection shall be documented on the EHS Laser Safety Self-Inspection Form. Special requirements exist for public display lasers and outdoor operation lasers (i.e. laser tag, laser light shows etc.). Contact EHS for information regarding such laser use.


Supervisors are strongly encouraged to consult with EHS as early as possible prior to ordering or installing any laser equipment. EHS can provide useful information concerning appropriate safety features, suitability of installation location and the safe operation of the equipment. All class 3B and 4 lasers owned or operated by PSU are required to be registered with EHS. This includes, but is not limited to, any instrument maintained in storage or donated to the University.

Before a laser system is put into routine service and operation, whether for the first time or following relocation, the supervisor shall provide EHS with a registration form, self-inspection form, and a standard operating procedure.

Transferring a device to another supervisor within the University requires a safety evaluation at the new location and the new supervisor's laser safety training status. Lasers being transferred, donated, or sold to another institution, company, or individual, requires prior notification to EHS. Supervisors shall also inform EHS when a system is permanently removed from service and is to be either disposed of or used for parts.

Disposal of laser equipment through Lion Surplus must take into account the proper disposal of all hazardous substances. Dyes, oils, and other hazardous components must be removed and disposed of in accordance with the Hazardous Waste Disposal Policy (SY20) before taking it to Lion Surplus.Contact EHS for guidance on proper disposal.


Supervisors and users of lasers shall complete the fundamental laser safety training class offered by EHS prior to beginning work with any lasers. The training will consist of the following general topics: Laser Fundamentals, Laser Hazards, Non-beam Hazards, Laser Accidents, Control Measures, and Elements of PSU's Laser Safety Program.

In addition, the supervisor shall provide training to users in the operating and safety procedures of each individual laser system.


Location and applications of lasers shall be limited to areas that ensure the safety of users and non-users. The facility design or location shall be such as to reduce exposure to laser radiation to non-hazardous levels and control exposure to non-beam hazards. This includes but is not limited to: window coverings, beam height, beam stops, appropriate surfaces, and barrier curtains.


Pre-use: A pre-use medical evaluation may be conducted on laser users based on a risk assessment.

Post Incident: Exposure to the primary beam of a laser may result in serious injury. If a situation arises where an individual is accidentally exposed to the primary beam of a laser, or if you suspect that an individual has been exposed, the following action is to be taken immediately:

Shut off the laser and its electrical power source and secure it from use by other individuals. Do not change the experimental or equipment configuration. Exposure determination and corrective actions can best be evaluated if the system set-up is not altered in any way following the event.

If this is a life-threatening emergency such as electrical shock, fire,etc., dial 911 for emergency response. Contact EHS at 814-865-6391. Inform them that you need to contact the Laser Safety Officer immediately. Inform the supervisor of the system of the accident.

For non- life-threatening emergencies notify your supervisor and EHS.The appropriate medical attention should be sought if the person exposed to the hazard, supervisor, or EHS feels it is warranted.

In conjunction with the individual involved, system supervisor, and respective department safety officer, EHS will begin an investigation as to the circumstances of the event. The system in question shall remain out of service pending the results of the investigation and completion of any corrective actions, if needed. The system may only be returned to service following approval by EHS Laser Safety Officer or designee.


For questions, additional detail, or to request changes to this policy, please contact the Director of Environmental Health and Safety.


Other Policies in this manual should also be referenced, especially the following:

SY01 - Environmental Health and Safety Policy

SY04 - Employee Accidents - Reporting and Investigation

SY20 - Hazardous Waste Disposal

Effective Date: January 17, 2005

Date Approved: November 16, 2005

Date Published: January 14, 2005 (Editorial changes, March 5, 2019)

Most recent changes:

  • January 6, 2022 - Changed Subject Matter Expert.

Revision History (and effective dates):

  • March 5, 2019 - Editorial changes.  Clarification of hazard evaluation procedure and requirements for bringing/returning a laser system into routine service and operation.
  • June 12, 2014 - Editorial changes. Minor, but clarifying changes made to the REFERENCE section. Revised all references to "Salvage and Surplus" throughout the policy to "Lion Surplus." Added policy steward/ further information references, in the event that there are questions or requests for changes to the policy.

  • January 17, 2005 - New Policy.

Date Approved: 

March 5, 2019

Date Published: 

March 5, 2019

Effective Date: 

March 5, 2019