Laser Safety

In academic settings, laser systems are used to complete a wide variety of research and product development tasks.  For example, some laboratory applications may require the use of high-powered lasers which sometimes must be operated with exposed beams to gain the desired effect.  However, laser systems present potential hazards which must not be ignored or underestimated.  Laser use at Rensselaer is governed by a combination of regulations set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA-adopted ANSI standards) as well as Part 50 of the New York State Department of Labor code rule.  This page is designed to outline the requirements for laser users at Rensselaer, while more detailed information can be found by reading the RPI Laser Safety Plan or consulting with the RPI Laser Safety officer.

Laser Safety Program

  • All users must observe the safety precautions stated in the operating instructions and on the warning labels provided by the manufacturer or distributor.
  • Protective housing for the laser system must be intact and all required interlocks must be functional.
  • If viewing optics are present in the system, they must contain filters or shutters that will prevent hazardous laser radiation from entering the eye.
  • The beam must not be at eye level of a normal person who is either seated or standing.
  • The beam should not be directed towards doorways or aisles.
  • The beam path should be well defined and controlled.
  • The beam should be terminated at the end of its useful path.
  • Only diffusely reflecting materials should be in or near the beam path, if feasible.

Engineering Controls – protective housing, enclosed beam path, beam stops, warning labels

Class 2 & 2M Lasers: “Caution” Sign

Class 3R Laser: "Danger” Warning Sign

Class 3B Laser:

  • “Danger” Warning Sign
  • Permanent Beam Stop
  • Activation Warning System
  • Remote Safety Interlock

Class 4 Laser:

  • “Danger” Warning Sign required
  • Permanent Beam Stop
  • Activation Warning System
  • Remote Safety Interlock
  • Flame Retardant Enclosure
  • Diffuse Reflecting Materials
  • Covered Doors and Windows – prevent laser escape

Administrative Controls – Laser Controlled Area

Nominal Hazard Zone – area where laser radiation potentially exceeds MPE.

Class 2, 2M, & 3R Lasers

  • Training
  • Written Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)

Class 3B Laser

  • Training
  • Registration with RPI Laser Safety Officer (LSO) prior to activation or modification
  • Written SOP

Class 4 Laser

  • Training
  • Registration with RPI Laser Safety Officer (LSO) prior to activation or modification
  • Written SOP
  • Disabled when not in use

For Skillport training, log in to Skillport and search for "Environmental Health and Safety – Laser Safety"


Class 3B Laser:

  • Laser Protective Eyewear (LPE) – absorbs or reflects specific wavelengths of laser light Optical density (high OD, less light passes through)
  • Protective clothing - fully covers skin

Class 4 Laser:

  • LPE
  • Protective clothing - fully covers skin

Laser Safety Officer: implements laser safety program. All laser systems at Rensselaer must be registered with, and approved by, the Laser Safety Officer, who can be contacted at (518) 276-6114.

Laser Safety Officer

The Laser Safety Officer is responsible for the administration of Rensselaer’s Laser Safety Program, as well as ensuring compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA- adopted ANSI standards-Z136.1 and Z-136.5) as well as Part 50 of the New York State Department of Labor code rule. The LSO, or his/her designee, will approve all new laser system installations, as well as any modifications to existing systems. Further, the LSO is responsible for the following activities:

  • Conducting annual laser inventory/registration as required in NYS Code Rule #50
  • Conducting bi-annual laser system Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) audit
  • Approving/establishing laser system-specific control measures
  • Effecting hazard analysis of new and existing laser systems
  • Coordinating administrative and management requirements
  • Approving documents associated with Rensselaer’s laser system registration and approval program

The LSO has the authority to suspend laser system operation in any work area at any time, if, in their judgment, elements of the program are not being met by that specific laser system. Work using such systems may resume only with the written approval of the LSO.

Initial Installation

It is the responsibility of the Laboratory Supervisor to contact the Laser Safety Officer regarding new laser installations at Rensselaer. The Laser Safety Officer must approve all laser installations. The laser system registration and approval process at Rensselaer is as follows:

Step #1: The Laboratory Supervisor or his/her designee must submit a Laser System Registration Request Form either electronically or via campus mail to the LSO. Sections 1, 2, 3, 7, and 8 of the form must be completed in their entirety, and the form must be submitted at least thirty business days prior to the anticipated system start up date of the system, unless otherwise approved by the Rensselaer Laser Safety Officer.

Step #2: The LSO will receive and review the Laser System Registration Request Form. The LSO will then initiate a meeting with the involved laboratory supervisor to discuss installation requirements, control measures, personal protective equipment, signage, user training and the proposed standard operating procedure for the laser system.

Step #3: Once all of the system requirements are met, both the LSO and the Laboratory Supervisor will sign the Laser System Registration Request Form, at which time the system will be considered as being approved for operation. This approval is contingent upon laboratory personnel following all of the requirements of the aforementioned Laser System Registration Form, and is subject to amendment based on the recommendations of the Laser Safety Committee.

Step #4: The LSO will provide the Laser Safety Committee with the details of all new laser installations.


It is the responsibility of the Laboratory Supervisor to contact the Laser Safety Officer regarding any system modifications that deviate from those specified on the original Laser System Registration Form. Notification regarding system modification must be done at least 15 business days prior to any modifications being made.

Annual Review

The LSO or his/her designee will audit each laser system at least annually, with a focus on safety items and personal protective equipment use.

Dismantling Procedures

It is the responsibility of the Laboratory Supervisor to notify the LSO of his/her intention to dismantle any laser system under their control, either permanently or on a temporary basis within fifteen days of actually dismantling the system.

Laser Incidents

All incidents involving laser systems resulting in any of the following must be reported to the LSO within 24 hours of the incident:

  • Injury to any person
  • Damage to Rensselaer property
  • Personal exposure to laser light in excess of the calculated MPE
  • Any "near miss” situations in which an unsafe act or condition could potentially have lead to any of the items listed above

Following a laser incident, laser use may resume in the laboratory involved at the discretion of the LSO.


In the event of an emergency, call Public Safety at (518) 276-6611.

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