Visible laser lights are concentrated beams of energy. If aimed at a person’s eye from a close proximity, then most of the energy will go through the eye’s pupil. The energy from the laser will actually become more concentrated and focused due to diffraction. Diffraction is when there is a slight bending of light as it passes through the eyes. The concentrated light from the laser becomes hyper focused and turned into a sharp dot in the eye’s retina. Most laser pointers and laser pens have a laser diode that emits a visible light. Most laser pointers that are available to consumers do not exceed 5 milliwatts of power output. Commercial lasers or the type of lasers that are utilized in a medical setting tend to be much more powerful. However, even a laser pointer fixed with one milliwatts of power output can cause damage and injury. Medical and professional grade lasers can cause instant damage that can lead to potential blindness.
Even though our blinking reflex protects us from the power output of a weak laser, professional grade laser can cause instantaneous injury even if our blinking reflexes kick in. As the output energy from a laser increases also does the chance of injury. A laser that has a 10 to 20 milliwatts output can accidentally blind someone if it directly hits the retina at a close range. The FDA issued a note stating that lasers that emit more than 5 milliwatts of power can cause irreversible eye damage.
The Hazards of Visible Lasers and at Risk People
Green laser lights also pose a danger. Green laser light emits invisible infrared light that can have several milliwatts of power. Many cheap green laser lights that aren’t fixed with an IR filter can emit a green light with an output that can potentially surpass 20 milliwatts of power. Many lasers that can pop balloons tend to be a common trend in parties and social gatherings. These higher power laser pointers won’t only pop balloons, but they can also cause burns. At close range, some of these higher power balloons can omit more than 250 milliwatts of power.
Even though most people are cognizant about the potential hazards of lasers, there are still certain demographics that can be subjected to this potential danger. Young adults who want to impress with a laser can potentially blind themselves if they aim the laser into their eyes. Sometimes the laser pointer or pen is modified, increasing its chance of causing injury. Many pilots and medical professionals who work with machinery are also at a risk of high-power lasers. Since 2004, more than 2,800 incidents relating to lasers has occurred in the United States alone. Many pedestrians point lasers at pilots, which can confuse pilots. Many doctors, including dermatologists, work with lasers to deodorize and resurface the skin. Laser equipment that is mishandled can pose a threat to patients and medical professionals.
Staying safe with Protective Eyewear for Visible Lasers
Protective eyewear for lasers come in different form factors including goggles and glasses. They are all suitable for military, research, education, and occupational purposes. For many occupations, The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires the use of protective eyewear when dealing with lasers. Protective eyewear are fixed with filtering optics that can protect the eyes from the wavelengths of light coming from the lasers. Protective eyewear needs to be fixed with the specific filter optics to filter out specific lasers. Filter optics works by scattering the energy from the laser. When selecting protective eyewear for visible lasers, it is important that you select one of that is made with quality in mind. Inferior products may not be effective against lasers that emit more than one wavelength of light.
Protective eyewear is rated against the optical density. Optical density absorbs certain wavelengths of power, quickly absorbing it. You want to select eyewear with the right optical density for the lasers used in your industry. Your laser safety officer would know what type of eyewear is required as well as set forth safety parameters to protect employees.
Selecting the Right Protective Eyewear
It’s important to understand that there is an ever-expanding number of laser types and sophisticated laser systems in the medical, cosmetic, and material processing industry. It is important to work closely with your laser safety officer when it comes to selecting high-performance eyewear with the right optical density. But generally speaking, you want to select protective eyewear that:
- Are Comfortable. For some industries, many workers and employees will be wearing laser safety goggles for several hours at a time. Make sure that the glasses and goggles provide comfort even during extensive wear.
- Is able to handle maximum permissible exposure. The maximum permissible exposure is the highest power output that is considered safe or has an extremely small chance of damaging the eyes of the wearer. You want protective eyewear that can manage this M.P.E. level at a benchmark significantly below the probability of damage. This will not only protect your employees, but also from lawsuits due to negligence.
If you do not have a laser officer in staff, then we will work with you to make sure that you are equipped with the right protective eyewear. Please contact us and learn about our free consultation. We will help conceptualize an optical density calculation that is safe to use with your laser systems. For branding opportunities, we also offer custom pad printing on all of our laser glasses.