Laser Safety Standards: Historical Development and Rationale

  • David H. Sliney
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (NSSB, volume 242)


As early as 1965, there had already been several attempts to develop some initial EL’s, and these were generally two or three values: One for q-switched ruby laser irradiation, and one for non-q-switched ruby laser irradiation. It became clear quickly that one or only a few EL values are not feasible to control hazards to health from laser radiation [1]. Radiometric factors, such as: wavelength, exposure duration, and laser pulse characteristics, and biological factors related to the target biological structure/organ (e.g., the retinal image size), influence the limits. Hence, the sliding scales of values as a function of exposure duration and wavelength are more akin to a collection of a large number of limits for different chemical agents, than a few values for a single substance. It became clear by 1971, after the first decade of laser use, that detailed hazard evaluation of each laser environment was too complex for most users, and a scheme of hazard classification evolved. Today, most countries follow a scheme of four major hazard classifications as defined in Document WS 825 of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). The classifications and the associated accessible emission limits (AEL’s) were based upon the EL’s. The EL and AEL values today are in surprisingly good agreement worldwide. There exists a greater range of safety requirements for the user for each class of laser.


Exposure Duration Optical Radiation International Electrotechnical Commission American National Standard Institute Threshold Limit Value 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • David H. Sliney
    • 1
  1. 1.Laser Microwave DivisionUS Army Environmental Hygiene AgencyUSA

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