Laser Safety Laws and Regulations (and some recommendations)

Issues related to safety

Laser Safety Laws and Regulations (and some recommendations)

Postby lasersafe1 » Sat Jan 09, 2010 5:37 pm

I'm glad when I see a safety effort being put into the "home" systems. Everyone should be keenly aware of the potential dangers. Imagine if your kid brings a friend over and blinds them. You would be in for a serious lawsuit.

We were all kids once, and we know what we would have done if our dad had a burning laser in the shop!

I highly recommend you make a hard attachment of your power cord to the laser system supply and put the plug end of the power cord in a small lock-box to keep it from being plugged in by anyone but yourself. You could also hard wire to a knife switch on the wall and use a lock on the knife switch. Now I realize that even 'that' would not have stopped me as a kid because I learned about home electrical wiring in my very early teens. Gosh, what would have stopped me? I guess one could envision a lock box that would fit over the end of the laser tube.

The following information is for anyone that wants to find out what the real requirements for these systems in the United States if you were going buy or sell a complete assembly:

The "hardware, interlock and labeling" requirements for a laser or machine containing a laser are set by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

There is a searchable database at:

21CFR1000 through 1005 are of vital importance if you are building lasers to sell (OR) importing lasers or laser systems and performing modifications to them before sale. These federal codes list the records and reports that must be filed and kept on hand.

21CFR1010 is the general performance standards for lasers and laser systems

21CFR 1010.10 talks about the label info that must exist on the housing. It also discusses interlocks and such.

For CNC laser engravers, you don't need to worry about anything in 1010.11

If anyone asks you about FLPPS, they are referring to Federal Laser Product Performance Standards. This is not a different set of standards but is simply another acronym for the 21CFR requirements.

This is the extent of US code for laser manufacturers. Some "compliance" companies reprint the code above and actually sell it to manufacturers who aren't aware that this information is free online. I shouldn't completely knock them though, because some of these companies are very helpful at compiling the web of information in a way that is easier for the common man to understand.

If anyone out there is wondering about the "operational safety" regulations regarding lasers, they are governed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). ANSI Z136.1-2007 is the latest standard for the safe use of lasers. There are several sub-standards that further categorize different uses for lasers. These standards are not "law" in themselves, but many states have adopted them into the state OSHA program to effectively mandate them as law.

These standards are not free. They can be purchased from:

If you want a "rough" idea of the text you would find in this standard, the OSHA web site has an old (1986) version of the standard on its website for "informational purposes only". This standard represented the knowledge up to that point. Many things have changed since then. High power Fiber lasers and high power diode lasers weren't even on the horizon when it was written. There have also been much more detailed studies of the biological effects of lasers to the skin and eye for wavelengths and power densities that were non-existent at the time.

What has changed for the CO2? I would think not much. The CO2 laser was already being used for quite some time when this standard was written. The safety margin they had in this standard for the power densities that can cause biological damage was already increased by a factor of two in order to give the most conservative calculations.

Now for a personal rant: Most of the research that is done to determine the biological damage from lasers is performed by the US Air Force Research Laboratory which is funded by the US taxpayers. I find it to be absurd that the resulting recommendations and calculations to determine a proper optical density for eye and skin protection would only be available through the ANSI Z136 publications that must be purchased from ANSI. The guy or girl with a home workshop that wants to know a safety recommendation should not be forced to shell out $193.00 for the information. Again, to be fair, this standard covers much more than just the exposure calculations, so I guess I can't completely knock them for trying to cover all the printing costs plus a small profit margin. I guess the heart of my rant is the following: If a government entity is going to mandate a regulation, the entity should also distribute the regulation free of charge. The internet is effectively "free" for publishing huge amounts of data.

There are only a couple of "commercial" web sites that I have seen that try to "freely" educate the public for laser safety.

1. Laser Professionals Inc. has some really good free online training and optical calculators.

2. Laser Safety Systems has some information that attempts to teach people about proper "whole room" intelock systems for larger "open beam" type facilities or laboratories.

Neither of the aforementioned sites have much to do with CNC laser applications, but they set a good example.

Let's keep it safe folks. We have some hazardous things in our home shops.
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Re: Laser Safety Laws and Regulations (and some recommendations)

Postby Tweakie » Tue May 11, 2010 4:07 pm

Good pointers here LS,
Safety is not always at the top of the list where it should be.
Although not completely child proof, I have incorporated a 'lock out switch' which prevents the HT unit being powered up without the key. This is my measly contribution to keeping lasers safe. :D


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Location: UK.

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