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Why Laser Safety Glasses Are Essential

There are many different types of laser safety glasses on the market today. However, not all laser safety glasses provide the same types of protection. Having the right match for the glasses you are wearing and the application in which you are using them is essential to protection your eyes from both short and long term exposure to radiation.

 Laser eye glasses should be designed to give full protection to the specified type of radiation present. There are different classes of radiation, Class 1, Class 2 Class 3, and Class 4, all determined by the type of laser system in place.  Laser classification is determined by the Federal Laser Product Performance Standard and is determined by the ability or the likelihood of damage to the eyes and skin when exposed to the particular device without shielding. This is also covered by the American national Standard for the Safe Use of Lasers through ANSI.

Class 1 lasers are considered to have the inability or no capacity to cause any damage to unshielded eyes or skin when the lasers are in use. Some Class 1 lasers may also have higher classes of lasers embedded within the equipment and if this is the case then the standards for protective gear for the highest Class of laser in the equipment must be followed.

Class 2 lasers have very limited damage potential however extended exposure or direct line of contact between the laser and the eye can result in significant damage. Generally laser safety glasses are all the safety equipment that is required when these lasers are in use. It is important to realize that even reflection has the potential for eye damage with these lasers so laser safety glasses need to be consistently worn when the equipment is in operation.

The Class 3 lasers are the medium powered laser systems that can and will cause damage to the eye with direct vision of the laser or even through a specular reflection. Specular reflection occurs when the laser light is seen off a reflective surface like a mirror, smooth counter surface, metal or any other highly reflective material. Basically the ray bounces off the surface and stays as a single powerful beam, which is why these are so problematic. If the laser is diffused on a rough surface or on a textured surface the damage is less of an issue. Laser safety glasses are imperative when operating these types of systems.

The Class 4 laser systems are the most dangerous to the eyes and skin. Even a diffuse reflection will cause significant eye damage and laser safety glasses are mandatory when these lasers are in operation. Even brief exposure can result in damage that becomes progressive over repeated exposures. With direct contact with the skin these lasers cause skin damage and are powerful enough to act as a source of fire on a wide variety of surfaces.

Wearing laser safety glasses with any class of laser equipment just makes good preventative sense. If you have a habit of wearing glasses you will never make the mistake of operating a medium to high power laser without the right protective eyewear in place.


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