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Product Code: ILSC2007_502

A Practical Approach to Safe Use of Lasers in the Research Laboratory
Authors:
David Stolarski, Northrop Grumman; San Antonio TX USA
Gary Noojin, Northrop Grumman; San Antonio TX USA
Benjamin Rockwell, USAF; Brooks City Base TX USA
Harvey Hodnett, Northrop Grumman; San Antonio TX USA
Robert Thomas, USAF; Brooks City Base TX USA
Presented at ILSC 2007

A practical approach to laser safety planning for the research laboratory must consider flexibility as a key component. Refinement in experimental design, a process of the scientific method, is inevitable. Each time the optical layout is modified, new hazards must be identified and neutralized before continuing normal experimental operation. In order to meet these changing technical demands, the development and implementation of a safe working environment should be both effective and flexible. Laser safety should be part of the culture of the research lab. A laser safety plan should consider the diverse nature of the research laboratory, with emphasis on the types of lasers used, end points of analysis, and duration of experimental procedures. Important factors for implementing a safety plan include the types of equipment required (influenced by the laser systems employed), detailed low-power alignment procedures, and control measures (both engineering and administrative) at key locations and times within the laboratory procedures. These control measures and procedures are required to maintain a safe working environment for all researchers in the laboratory. Overall, the approach to a laser safety plan must be logical and systematic with careful pre-planning for beam path layout. Together, these considerations work to promote safe use of lasers in the research laboratory. We present a methodology that implements these approaches to laser safety and some real-world examples of how we have applied this methodology in our laboratory.

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