Skip to Local Navigation
Skip to Content
California State University, Long Beach
College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

Laser Safety


The purpose of the CNSM Laser Safety Program (LSP) is to ensure that lasers are used in a manner which will protect the health and safety of CNSM personnel, eliminate danger to life and property, and comply with relevant State and Federal regulations. This Program is based upon the American National Standard for the Safe User of Lasers (ANSI) Z136.1. A Laser Safety Committee (LSC) has been established to ensure that the required safety measures are implemented and maintained in the most democratic and intelligent manner.


The scope of the CNSM Laser Safety Program covers all Class 3B and Class 4 lasers used in teaching, research and any other College-related activity within the College of Natural Sciences at California State University, Long Beach.

Working with Class 2, 3, and 4 Lasers

The California State Department of Occupational Health (Cal/OSHA) regulates the use of lasers in the workplace. Cal/OSHA requires that institutions follow the laser safety measures published in the American National Standards Institute Guide Z136.1. In the College of Natural Sciences, a College Laser Safety Committee (LSC) reviews applications for proposed use of any regulated laser device (Class 3B or Class 4). The LSC works with each applicant to set control measures that ensure compliance with the safety requirements. The LSC then issues a formal Laser Use Authorization (LUA). The College has appointed a Laser Safety Officer (LSO) to run the program on a day-to-day basis.

Laser Classification System

Class 1 Lasers

Considered non-hazardous under normal operating conditions.

Class 2 Lasers

These are usually Helium-Neon devices with a power output of 1 mW or less. These "Low-Power" lasers are by definition incapable of causing eye injury within the duration of a blink (aversion response) of 0.25s, and are within the visible light spectrum (400-700nm). Many diode lasers are found in this class. Two main rules apply:

  1. Do not permit a person to stare at the laser from within the beam path, and
  2. Do not point the laser at a person's eye.

Class 2M Lasers

Same as Class 2 but potentially hazardous when viewed with optical aids.

Class 2 lasers should bear a CAUTION label stating "Do Not Stare Into Beam".

Class 3R Lasers

Previously classified as 3A. Denotes lasers or laser systems that have a lower risk of producing eye injury than other Class 3 lasers, and therefore have reduced requirement from those lasers that have a higher associated risk. Many laser pointers fall into this category. The power output of Class 3R lasers is < 5 mW

Class 3B Lasers

Denotes lasers or laser systems that can produce a hazard if viewed directly, including intrabeam viewing of specular reflections. Some high power green laser pointers fall into this category. Class 3B power output ranges from 5mW to 500mW.

Class 4 lasers

Denotes lasers or laser systems that produce a hazard not only from direct or specular reflections, but may also produce hazardous diffuse reflections. They include high power lasers with invisible emissions such as infrared and ultraviolet. Such lasers may produce significant skin hazards as well as fire hazards. Lasers of power rating greater than 0.5W are Class 4.


LSC is established under the auspices of the CSULB Radiation Safety Committee. Members are appointed by the RSC and shall be a mix of LUA holders, laser safety experts and administrative personnel. The LSC meets at least semiannually.

The Laser Safety Officer (LSO)

Monitors LUA holders for compliance, performs routine inspections and reports to the LSC. The LSO has the authority to shut down any laser operation that in her/his judgment poses an immediate danger. LSO actions are subject to the review/revision by the LSC.

Laser Use Authorization (LUA)

Anyone associated with the CNSM who operates a Class 3b or 4 laser must possess a valid LUA. The LUA specifies locations, laser supervisor, trained users, and laser information including power output, wavelength etc. The exact operations proposed must also be described. The LSO and LSC review the information, and either approve the LUA, or send it back to the applicant for changes. Applications that are judged complete and adequate are approved. To apply for a LUA, do the following:

  1. Fill out a Laser Use Authorization (LUA) application and send to the CNSM Laser Safety Officer (LSO)
  2. LSO will evaluate proposed use, discuss necessary engineering and administrative controls, SOP, training etc. and forward to the Laser Safety Committee (LSC)
  3. LSC evaluates LUA application and gives final approval to proceed with laser acquisition and set up
  4. Pending approval of LUA, training of laser users commences. Training shall be documented and is described in this manual.

Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)

The Laser Standard Operation Procedure SOP is required for all Class 3B and Class 4 lasers. The document is an integral part of each laser user's safety program. The SOP describes training, responsibilities of personnel, PPE, engineering and administrative controls and alignment procedures. Equipment-specific operating guidelines are also part of the SOP. The LSO assists in writing the SOP.

Laser Acquisition

Anyone in the CSNM who plans to acquire a Class 3b or 4 laser shall first obtain a Laser Use Authorization as described above. Undeclared lasers are subject to impound by the LSO upon discovery. The LSO will help the laser owner with the LUA process to ensure that such lasers can be put to use in a timely fashion, in full compliance with the provisions of this manual.

Responsibilities of the Principle Investigator, Laser Supervisor

  1. Ensure that all laser users receive adequate and appropriate laser safety and operational training, including the issues listed below under "LASER SAFETY TRAINING" before operating the laser(s). Other lab personnel should receive awareness training and be able to recognize the nominal hazard zone. Each person should be given a personal copy of the written operator/guide. Training must be documented.
  2. Ensure that all appropriate safety procedures are followed, that any laser safety devices (interlocks etc.) are functioning properly, and that the correctly rated goggles are available and used as appropriate. Properly rated goggles must be worn whenever the beam is on and there is the potential for beam exposure.
  3. Supervise or otherwise ensure the adequate supervision of users, visitors and service personnel as appropriate, and provide adequate security to prevent unauthorized use.
  4. Correct and control all laser equipment and laser hazards as appropriate.
  5. Ensure that the laser and appropriate areas are correctly posted, according to the "Laser Safety Guide".

Responsibilities of the Laser User

  1. Must be authorized and appropriately trained prior to operating a potentially hazardous laser, or prior to being in the presence of an operating, potentially hazardous laser.
  2. Must adhere to all appropriate rules and procedures as spelled out in the SOP and training documents.
  3. Must immediately report accidents or potentially dangerous situations to the supervisor and/or safety personnel.

Laser Safety Training

This Laser Safety Program is a specific subset of the general CNSM safety program. All involved in the use of college-regulated lasers shall be currently trained and in good standing with respect to the overall CNSM Safety program.

The laser safety training described below is mandatory for all who may occupy the Nominal Hazard Zone of a Class 3b or Class 4 laser. This same level of training is recommended for those who use Class II Lasers as well.

Laser safety training must effectively communicate to the users the control measures for (including personal protective equipment) and potential hazards of the laser equipment involved. Any staff and faculty responsible for the operation of a laser must ensure that all appropriate personnel (including students) receive the proper level of training prior to the operation of the laser. This training will be provided by the Laser Safety Officer (LSO) and documented. The training of personnel, posting of areas, and operation of the laser(s) must be appropriate to the hazard level of the laser. This is summarized as follows:

Training shall consist of reading this online manual, viewing the "Laser Safety Micro-course" presentation, reading the LIA "Laser Safety Guide" (check out from safety office) and then taking the Laser Safety Quiz. The LSO will grade the quiz and discuss main aspects of trainee's laser setup. Training shall be documented. Device-specific training will be provided by the laser supervisor or principle investigator. Contact the Laser Safety Officer, Mr. Christopher Frost, at 562 985-5623,, Microbiology 006 for training material.