LASER is an acronym which stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. The laser produces an intense, highly directional beam of light. The most common cause of laser-induced tissue damage is thermal in nature, where the tissue proteins are denatured due to the temperature rise following absorption of laser energy.
The human body is vulnerable to the output of certain lasers, and under certain circumstances, exposure can result in damage to the eye and skin. Research relating to injury thresholds of the eye and skin has been carried out in order to understand the biological hazards of laser radiation. It is now widely accepted that the human eye is almost always more vulnerable to injury than human skin.
Laser hazards are addressed in specific standards for the general industry.
How do I find out about employer responsibilities and workers' rights?
Workers have a right to a safe workplace. The law requires employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces. The OSHA law also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for exercising their rights under the law (including the right to raise a health and safety concern or report an injury). For more information see www.whistleblowers.gov or Workers' rights under the OSH Act.
OSHA can help answer questions or concerns from employers and workers. To reach your regional or area OSHA office, go to the OSHA Offices by State webpage or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).
Small business employers may contact OSHA's free and confidential On-site Consultation program to help determine whether there are hazards at their worksites and work with OSHA on correcting any identified hazards. Consultants in this program from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing injury and illness prevention programs. On-site Consultation services are separate from enforcement activities and do not result in penalties or citations. To contact OSHA's free consultation service, go to OSHA's On-site Consultation web page or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) and press number 4.
Workers may file a complaint to have OSHA inspect their workplace if they believe that their employer is not following OSHA standards or that there are serious hazards. Workers can file a complaint with OSHA by calling 1-800-321-OSHA (6742), online via eComplaint Form, or by printing the complaint form and mailing or faxing it to the local OSHA area office. Complaints that are signed by a worker are more likely to result in an inspection.
If you think your job is unsafe or if you have questions, contact OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742). Your contact will be kept confidential. We can help. For other valuable worker protection information, such as Workers' Rights, Employer Responsibilities, and other services OSHA offers, visit OSHA's Workers' page.
- OSHA/Laser Institute of America (LIA) Alliance: A collaborative relationship to foster safer and more healthful American workplaces. The Alliance provides LIA's members and others, including small businesses with information, guidance, and access to training resources that will help them protect employees' health and safety, particularly in reducing and preventing exposure to laser beam and non-beam hazards in industrial and medical workplaces. Safety bulletins and fact sheets can be found on this webpage.
- Eye and Face Protection. OSHA eTool. Provides a comprehensive hazard assessment, information about selecting protective devices for the workplace, as well as OSHA requirements.
- Optical Radiation: Laser Protection. Discusses the types of personal protective equipment (PPE) that must be used to protect against laser hazards in the workplace.
- Hospital. OSHA eTool. Focuses on some of the hazards and controls found in the hospital setting, and describes standard requirements as well as recommended safe work practices for healthcare workers.
- Surgical Suite Module - Laser Hazards. Recommends solutions for laser hazards in the hospital setting.
- Surgical Suite Module - Smoke Plume. Reports that an estimated 500,000 workers are exposed to laser or electro-surgical smoke each year, including surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, and surgical technologists.