Laser safety worldwide

© Photo | Jim McDonald

Klaus Löffler, current president of the Laser Institute of America (LIA), sees marked regional differences in laser safety and explains how the LIA is working to raise standards.

Why does an institution with “America” in its name operate worldwide?

The laser was invented in America almost 50 years ago. And the LIA has been active in the U.S. for 45 years. In the meantime, however, the laser has become a key technology worldwide. Consequently, the LIA’s work is now very international in its orientation, and that’s reflected in the nationality of our recent presidents. We’re busy spreading knowledge about laser applications and attracting new users around the world. At the same time, we try to ensure that lasers are used in compliance with applicable safety standards.

There is more

The person

Klaus-LoefflerKlaus Löffler is Head of Sales for Laser Technology at the TRUMPF Group. In recognition of his work relating to the application of laser technologies in sectors such as automotive technology, micro-applications, and medical engineering, the LIA presented to him its Fellow Award in 2011.

Laser Institute of America

The Laser Institute of America (LIA) has made the development and safe use of laser technology its mission for 45 years. Co-founded by laser pioneers like Dr. Theodore H. Maimann, the organization today is mainly dedicated to the education and advanced training of those working in the laser field.

Seminars on laser safety are also part of the organization’s range of services as well as the training of laser safety officers and hosting international congresses, the International Laser safety Conference for example.

On the LIA website you can get Podcasts on laser safety and the the Laser Safety Calculator.

LIA members include researchers, manufacturers, integrators and users — all who want to work together to make laser applications safer.

In this video interview LIA safety expert Gus Anibarro answers questioins on laser safety.

Are there regional differences in laser safety practices?

Safety consciousness is often lacking, especially in Asia’s emerging markets. It has happened that high-power lasers are operated at trade fairs without adequate laser beam shielding.

The effects of laser light on the human eye are exactly the same the world over. However, the safety measures and regulations in place vary greatly from region to region. The international success of laser technology has triggered a proliferation of new and sometimes unknown manufacturers of lasers and laser systems, including those in new markets, too. For instance, more and more laser systems are being installed in China, creating a big need for the appropriate education and training. That applies to both machine safety and the operators’ personal safety. Another challenge is to ensure that laser safety practices keep up with the rapid changes in laser technology: higher power, greater beam quality, shorter pulses, additional wavelengths.

Can you give specific examples?

Well, particularly in Asia, it’s not unusual to operate even high-power, solid-state lasers without any laser beam protection at all. The consequences for the operators — sometimes more or less unaware of the danger — can be be disastrous. A disregard for proper laser protection is also in evidence at Asian trade fairs. In fact, visitors to these trade fairs would be well advised to bring along a pair of laser safety goggles.

What specifically is the LIA doing to promote laser safety?

The L IA works together with the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) to draw up and publish guidelines on safe laser use as norms adopted by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). This makes the LIA the authority on matters of laser safety. We offer comprehensive laser safety training for users in research, industry, and medicine. These continuing training courses are conducted around the world and are available both on site and online. We train more laser safety officers than any other organization worldwide, and we are proud to offer both courses on both theoretical and practical aspects.

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