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The Photonics Spotlight

Promoting Dangerous Practices in Laser Labs

Dr. Rüdiger Paschotta

Ref.: encyclopedia articles on eye protection and laser safety; Wikipedia on laser safety

Most researches and laser engineers are well aware of laser safety issues, particularly the great hazards of laser light for the human eye. However, according to my experience it is still not uncommon to find people working with class-4 lasers (e.g. multi-watt infrared lasers in open lab setups) and not wearing laser goggles. It even happens that people more or less publicly promote working practices which are definitely rather dangerous in the sense of making possible serious eye damage with a small but not negligible probability. Just two examples:

By the way, I know a former colleague who worked exactly in this style with a 500-mW Nd:YAG laser: no safety goggles, just keep out of the horizontal plane of the beams and exert extra (unspecified) care when aligning a system. He was later told by a doctor that peripheral regions of both his retinas had been burned. He had not noticed that himself, but with somewhat less luck it could have hit the central portion of the retina, blinding him for ever.

Everybody may of course make up his or her own mind, but I insist on the following:

This article is a posting of the Photonics Spotlight, authored by Dr. Rüdiger Paschotta. You may link to this page, because its location is permanent. See also the Encyclopedia of Laser Physics and Technology.

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