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Risk Management Services

Laser Safety and Program Development

Classification and Standards

Classification and Exposure Standards

Laser classification and exposure standards are listed in:
ANSI Z136.1 2007 The Safe Use of LASERS***
ANSI Z136.2 1988 Safe Use of Optical Fiber Communication
Systems Utilizing LASER diode and LED sources

ANSI Z136.3 1988 Safe Use of LASERS in Health Care

WorkSafeBC has adopted the above standards.
The classification for most lasers is provided by the manufacturer.

Laser Classification
Class 1, Class 1M

Class 2, Class 2M

Class 3R, Class 3B

Class 4

Both ANSI Z136.1-2007 and IEC 60825-1 use the same laser classes. However,
the definitions of the class limits are different in the two standards.
Class 1M and 2M vary because of different measurement conditions. The
wavelength range is also different for class 1M.
Class 2 lasers are the same under both standards.
Class 1 and class 3R lasers are the same in the visible and near IR, but
differences exist in the UV and far IR.
Class 3B limits are similar in the visible and near IR for CW and repetitive pulse
lasers, but the limits for single pulse lasers are different for short pulses.
Additional differences exist in the UV and far IR.

Class 1 Lasers
Safe during normal use
Low power or enclosed beam

Incapable of causing injury

Label not required

Class 1 lasers do not emit harmful levels of radiation and are,

therefore, exempt from control measures. As a matter of good
practice, unnecessary exposure to Class 1 laser light should be
avoided (may be considered a higher class during
maintenance or service).
* CD-ROM players/drives

Nd:YAG Laser Marker

Class 2 Lasers
Class 2 lasers emit accessible laser light in the visible region and are
capable of creating eye damage through chronic exposure.
Aversion response within 0.25 second when exposed to Class 2 laser
light. This blink reflex provides adequate protection.
It is possible, however, to overcome the blink reflex and to stare into a
Class 2 laser long enough to cause damage to the eye.
Class 2 lasers have power levels less than 1 mW.
* Alignment applications, supermarket scanners

Laser Radiation
Do Not Stare Into Beam

Helium Neon Laser

1 milliwatt max/cw

Class 2a Lasers
Special-purpose lasers not intended for viewing. Power output is
less than 1 mW.

Causes injury only when viewed directly for more than 1,000
seconds over an 8 hour day, not continuous exposure.
Many bar-code readers fall into this category.

Class 1M and 2M
M is for magnification.

A class 1M laser is class 1 unless magnifying optics are used.

A class 2M laser is class 2 unless magnifying optics are used.
If these lasers are viewed with magnifying or colleting optics,
more light enters the eye and the hazard is greater. These lasers
can be viewed safely using optical instruments only if appropriate
laser safety eyewear or filters are used.
M classes usually apply to expanded or diverging beams.

Condition 1
Expanded Beam

Condition 2
Diverging Beam

Class 3R (formally 3A) Lasers

Normally not hazardous when viewed momentarily with the naked eye
but aversion response may not provide adequate eye protection.

CDRH includes visible lasers only, ANSI includes invisible lasers.

CW maximum power (visible) 5 mW

They pose severe eye hazards when viewed through optical

instruments (e.g., microscopes and binoculars).

* Laser pointers


ND:YAG 532nm
5 milliwatts max/CW
CLASS IIIa Laser Product

Class 3B Lasers

Will cause injury upon direct viewing of the beam and

specular reflections.

The power output is 5-500 mW cw or less than 10 J/cm2 for

a -s pulsed system.

Specific control measures must be implemented.

* Research applications


2w ND:YAG Wavelength: 532 nm
Output Power 80 mW
CLASS IIIb Laser Product

Class 4 Lasers

Class 4 Lasers
Class 4 lasers pose eye hazards, skin hazards, and fire
hazards. Viewing of the beam and of specular reflections or
exposure to diffuse reflections can cause eye and skin injuries.
All lasers with power levels greater than 500mW CW or greater
than 10 J/cm2 for a 1/4-s pulsed system.
Full control measures must be implemented.
* Research, manufacturing



2w Nd:YAG
Wavelength: 532 nm
Output Power 20 W
CLASS IV Laser Product

Photo: Keith Hunt -

Copyright: University of Sussex, Brighton (UK)

250 Watt Class 4 CO2 LASER

Beam moving at 2.5 cm/sec along hot-dog

Laser Classification Summary

Class 1

Incapable of causing injury during normal operation

Class 1M

Incapable of causing injury during normal operation

unless collecting optics are used

Class 2

Visible lasers incapable of causing injury in 0.25 s.

Class 2M

Visible lasers incapable of causing injury in 0.25 s

unless collecting optics are used

Class 3R

Marginally unsafe for intrabeam viewing; up to 5 times the class 2

limit for visible lasers or 5 times the class 1 limit for invisible lasers

Class 3B

Eye hazard for intrabeam viewing, usually not an eye

hazard for diffuse viewing

Class 4

Eye and skin hazard for both direct and scattered exposure