Laser Classification
All lasers are classified by the manufacturer and labeled with the appropriate warning labels. Any modification of an existing laser or an unclassified laser must be classified by the Laser Safety Officer prior to use. The following criteria are used to classify lasers:
  1. Wavelength. If the laser is designed to emit multiple wavelengths the classification is based on the most hazardous wavelength.
  2. For continuous wave (CW) or repetitively pulsed lasers the average power output (Watts) andlimiting exposure time inherent in the design are considered.
  3. For pulsed lasers the total energy per pulse (Joule), pulse durationpulse repetition frequency andemergent beam radiant exposure are considered.
Class I Lasers
These are lasers that are not hazardous for continuous viewing or are designed in such a way that prevent human access to laser radiation. These consist of low power lasers or higher power embedded lasers. (i.e. laser printers)
Class 2 Visible Lasers (400 to 700 nm)
Lasers emitting visible light which because of normal human aversion responses, do not normally present a hazard, but would if viewed directly for extended periods of time. (like many conventional light sources)
Class 2A Visible Lasers (400 to 700 nm)
Lasers emitting visible light not intended for viewing, and under normal operating conditions would not produce a injury to the eye if viewed directly for less than 1000 seconds. (i.e. bar code scanners)
Class 3a
Lasers that normally would not cause injury to the eye if viewed momentarily but would present a hazard if viewed using collecting optics (fibre optics loupe or telescope).
Class 3b
Lasers that present an eye and skin hazard if viewed directly. This includes both intrabeam viewing and specular reflections. Class 3b lasers do not produce a hazardous diffuse reflection except when viewed at close proximity.
Class 4 Lasers
Lasers that present an eye hazard from direct, specular and diffuse reflections. In addition such lasers may be fire hazards and produce skin burns.