Follow These Guidelines for Better Laser Safety

Does your practice have a Laser Safety Program? Does your staff conduct an annual laser safety audit to determine the level of compliance?

It is never too late to set up and follow some basic guidelines. Laser therapy is extremely safe when basic protocols are followed by the laser operator and support staff. However, as with all healthcare procedures, some element of risk is present through negligence or accident. These hazards are easily prevented or reduced with safety protocols for each application.

Of all hazards, complacency is the most dangerous, and it is imperative to develop a risk management perspective on laser safety. Proper safety management requires a fourfold approach including knowledge of standards, identification of hazards and risks, implementation of appropriate control measures, and consistent program audit to demonstrate quality assurance.

Below are general guidelines that can help reduce risk and improve the safety in your practice.  The Aspen Laser Company has developed a “Laser Safety Guide” that is available upon request.

Laser Safety Supervision

Every practice using a laser should have an individual trained in safe operation of laser therapy and regularly use a safety checklist. This individual (often the doctor), is the Laser Safety Officer (LSO).

State Rules and Regulations

Each state has varying levels of rules and regulations regarding medical lasers. Some states require that a laser is registered with the Board of Health. Other states require that an annual or biannual fee is paid. In general, most states allow therapy lasers to fall under the scope of practice of most healthcare disciplines.

Safe Location

Select a secure, properly equipped, and well-ventilated location in which to install and operate the laser. During any laser therapy procedure, do not allow any nonessential personnel into the treatment area.

Safety Warning Signs

Lasers require the use of specific Warning Signs for the safe operations of each laser system. Warning signs must be in view outside and inside the room where the laser treatment is being performed and must meet ANSI recommendations.

Eye Protection

Therapy Lasers emit both visible and invisible radiation. Protective eyewear are safety goggles that are necessary for both Class IIIb and Class IV lasers where irradiation of the eye is possible. Required users include the administrator of the treatment, the patient and any other individuals in the room.

Not all safety goggles are the same. The protective eyewear that came with your laser is manufactured specifically for the wavelengths emitted by the laser. Do not use protective eyewear from other manufacturers as they may not provide the appropriate level of protection. 

Important

  • Never look directly into the end of any therapy hand piece
  • Never direct the laser light directly into the eyes, or direct the laser beam at anything other than the area to be treated with or without the correct safety goggles

Before Treatment

Remove all reflective objects (such as rings, metal watch bands, and jewelry) prior to treatment with the laser. Indirect or direct eye contact with the laser beam or with scattered laser light from any reflective surfaces may cause eye damage,

During Treatment

Never allow untrained personnel to operate the laser device unless directly supervised by a properly trained and experienced individual.

Never leave the laser device in the READY mode unattended. Always put the laser in STANDBY mode or switch the device OFF prior to adjusting or preparing the hand or piece or fiber optic.

If the laser uses a key, remove the key from the laser device’s key switch when not in use to prevent unauthorized and/or unqualified use of the laser device as well as inadvertent laser emissions.

After Treatment

Turn the laser device off before relocating equipment in the same vicinity. If disconnecting the fiber cable and handpiece from the laser device, always clean the fiber tip before inserting into the emission port.  A dirty tip will result in damage to the unit.

Avoid the use of flammable anesthetics or oxidizing gases such as nitrous oxide (N2O) and oxygen.  Solvents, adhesives and flammable solutions used for cleaning and disinfecting should be allowed to evaporate before the laser equipment is used.

If the laser fails to operate properly do not use and contact the Laser Manufacturer immediately. There are no user-serviceable components inside this laser device. Therefore, do not attempt to open or gain access to any internal device component.

Laser Safety Checklist

  • Appropriate warning signs posted
  • Access to laser and treatment area is secure and controlled
  • Visually inspect and clean all optical connectors for dirt, debris, etc.
  • Inspect laser for proper function
  • Visually inspect and clean all safety goggles
  • Goggles available for all persons in Treatment Area (Nominal Hazard Zone)
  • Extra goggles placed outside treatment room if necessary
  • Sources of potential laser beam reflection and scatter controlled
  • Treatment protocol established for patient
  • Laser injury management protocol in place for accidental injury
  • Document laser treatment and post-treatment outcome

Learn more about laser therapy training options from Aspen Laser in the link below.

References in this Article

American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z136 series of laser safety standards.
Guidelines for Implementing a Safe Laser Program

https://www.lia.org/resources/laser-safety-information/laser-safety-standards/ansi-z136-standards

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
Laser Hazards

https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/laserhazards/

OSHA Technical Manual
Laser Hazards

https://www.osha.gov/dts/osta/otm/otm_iii/otm_iii_6.html

FDA CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21
Performance Standards For Light-Emitting Products

https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=1040.10&SearchTerm=laser

FDA
Laser Products and Instruments

https://www.fda.gov/radiation-emitting-products/home-business-and-entertainment-products/laser-products-and-instruments

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