Industrial and Laboratory Laser Mistakes That Make Laser Safety Glasses Necessary
When you spend 40 or more hours per week in an industrial or laboratory setting, the routine can desensitize you from workplace hazards. This phenomenon often happens to people when driving, for example. Just as wearing a seatbelt protects you against an accident on your commute, wearing laser safety glasses protect your vision should a laser accident occur at work.
It doesn’t matter that no one has suffered an injury in recent years. It only takes one mistake made by you or someone else at your job to make it happen today. No matter the safety history of your work or laboratory setting, you should never assume that your safety is assured. Here are seven industrial and laboratory laser mistakes that make laser safety glasses a necessity:
Cluttered Working Area
In situations where the laser setup is frequently changed, tools and nonessential equipment can build up and clutter the work area. This increases the risk of stray reflections should your hand bump into or knock over an object into the laser beam.
Reflective Items on Your Person
Jewelry, rings, tie clips, cuff links, watches, necklaces, and dangling badges can cause unintended reflections of laser light. Make a habit of removing these items before laser work, even when they aren’t a hazard for the activity you’re doing for the day. This habit will prevent your forgetting to remove them during activities where they do pose a danger, such as a laser alignment.
Unfamiliarity with Laser Equipment
Only people with proper training should operate a laser. If you’re unsure about any aspect of your work, don’t attempt to figure it out on your own. Ask for help.
Improper Mounting of Equipment
When a laser or its optics aren’t properly mounted, even a small nudge could project the beam in a direction that could harm someone outside the test area.
Exercising Insufficient Care during Laser Alignment
Most laser accidents in the lab happen while setting up and aligning the laser and its optics. Never do this activity when in a distracted, fatigued, or rushed frame of mind. Avoid using short cuts that are outside an established protocol. Expediency is never an excuse for this. Use non-reflective tools. When possible, use a lower-powered laser beam during the alignment process.
Exercising Insufficient Care after Laser Alignment
It’s not uncommon for people to carefully follow safety protocols when arranging and aligning the laser/optics setup, and then let their guard down afterward when they feel the setup is safe. There’s no guaranty that the setup won’t change because of another’s mistakes or an equipment problem.
In addition, a proper laser/optics setup doesn’t preclude accidents caused by simple human error. For example, an invisible infrared laser may appear turned off when it’s actually on. This may cause someone to look directly into the beam.
Experience by itself doesn’t guaranty your safety. Safety requires constant vigilance every day. In addition to the desensitization effect discussed above, some experienced workers may judge they have the skill to take shortcuts that violate safety protocol. Success at pulling this off encourages them to repeat this violation until their luck runs out. Sometimes a serious accident happens during the first attempt. Accidents aren’t the exclusive province of inexperienced workers.
– Mistakes Related to Laser Safety Glasses –
Not Wearing Laser Safety Glasses
There are many reasons people choose not to wear safety glasses. Sometimes it’s a comfort issue. Discomfort from poor fitting safety glasses is a safety issue in itself because it distracts the worker, and therefore increases accident risk. Rather than forgoing their use, get a better fitting pair of glasses.
In many work areas, as in the case of some laboratories, safety culture is completely lacking. Management may look the other way when the workers, which might include students, technicians, and even scientists, choose not to wear safety glasses. In such an environment, it’s easy to do the same. However, that doesn’t change the laws of probability associated with risk-taking. Choosing to wear safety glasses in spite of this culture won’t negatively affect anyone’s opinion of you.
Another reason is complacency. The psychology of complacency as described previously also applies when people choose not to bother with safety glasses. Two common reasons are that because accidents haven’t occurred in recent years, none will occur now, and the feeling that years of experience and great skill somehow exempt one from becoming an accident victim.
Wearing the Wrong Laser Safety Glasses
Laser safety glasses work by blocking or attenuating laser light within a specific wavelength range. Therefore, safety glasses for one type of laser won’t work for another laser that emits light outside the glasses’ rated wavelength range.
The safety glasses must also handle the power output of the laser. Glasses that safely attenuate the beam power of one laser, may provide inadequate protection from a more powerful laser. The glasses’ optical density determines the laser power levels that it can safely attenuate or block. That’s why wearing the wrong laser safety glasses won’t protect your eyes.
Note that some lasers emit more than one wavelength of light. An example of this is green lasers that convert infrared into green light by using frequency doubling. Some of these lasers don’t filter out the infrared from the beam output. Therefore, you will need protection from both the green laser output and the infrared.
As you can see, choosing the right pair of laser safety glasses is not as straightforward as getting a pair of sunglasses. If you aren’t sure of which laser safety glasses to get, our experts can help you. For more information or technical help, please contact us.