Lasers are a common feature in contracting and construction. They are used for many purposes, the most common being the creation of level reference lines for such a wide range of projects as laying pipes, tunneling, building bridges, underwater construction and dredging.
Lasers, however, can present many dangers to the unwary, and there are important safety procedures that should be followed to reduce injuries and accidents. Even low-intensity devices can result in injuries if improperly handled.
Dangers of Laser Use
The most common risk of laser use is vision damage if the beam strikes the eye. This damage is often very severe and can even result in permanent blindness. The risk depends on the class of laser used. Class 1 and Class 2 lasers are very low intensity and averting one’s eyes upon exposure can often serve as protection from the beam. Class 3 and 4 lasers can present significant hazards under many conditions.
It is important to know which class of laser is being used. It is also vital not to use a laser for any purpose other than its intended application.
Only properly trained workers should be permitted to handle lasers. They should be aware of potential hazards to vision and the need to avoid unnecessary exposure to the beam. Not only should those handling lasers be properly trained, but the area should be kept clear of all those who are not trained.
Setup and Alignment
Lasers can present significant dangers to bystanders if great care is not taken in their use. When setting up and aligning the device, workers need to take great care to ensure that the laser is not aimed or directed into areas that are potentially occupied.
Laser devices should always be mounted to a stable platform, allowing for easy and efficient control over the device and where it points. The work area where the laser is to be used should be brightly lit. This will help to avoid pupil dilation. In addition, proper approved personal protective equipment (PPE) should be used, including protective goggles, in case of accidental exposure.
No laser device should be left unattended when in use. All pieces of equipment should have proper caps or beam shutters to prevent accidental exposure. When not being actively used, the laser should be shut off.
Signage and Warnings
Use proper warnings and danger signs in all areas where the laser might be in use. Such signs should not only warn of laser use, but of the potential hazards of the device. These dangers include eye damage, burns, ozone creation, environmental contaminants and radiation.
Reflective surfaces in general should be avoided in any area where lasers are to be used. This includes the use of corner cube reflectors if the beam is to be observed at close ranges. Binoculars and telescopes should be avoided unless beam intensity is exceptionally lower than standard safe levels.
While extremely helpful in many situations, lasers can pose a major threat if misused. Be sure to always follow any safety standards set by the manufacturer.