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The use of lasers has become widespread across a variety of industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, research, and telecommunications. While lasers have revolutionized many aspects of work and innovation, they also present certain hazards, including eye and skin injuries from direct or scattered light, electrical hazards, and potential fire hazards. Recognizing these risks, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established guidelines for laser safety, including standards for laser enclosures. 

Understanding Laser Classes

To comprehend OSHA’s laser enclosure standards, it’s vital to understand laser classifications. According to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), lasers are classified into four major types based on their potential for causing injury:

  • Class 1: These are low-power lasers that are not hazardous for continuous viewing or are enclosed in a housing that prevents user access to laser radiation.
  • Class 2: These are visible lasers. They are considered safe due to the aversion response, which causes a person to close their eyes or look away.
  • Class 3: This category is subdivided into 3R and 3B. While Class 3R lasers can be hazardous under certain conditions, Class 3B lasers are considered moderately hazardous for direct viewing but not for diffused light.
  • Class 4: These are high-power lasers that can cause severe eye and skin injuries from direct or scattered light. They can also ignite materials and produce hazardous air pollutants.

OSHA’s Laser Enclosure Standards

While OSHA doesn’t have specific regulations for lasers, it cites ANSI Z136.1 standard as recognized industry practices. According to these guidelines, laser enclosures are required for Class 3B and Class 4 lasers to protect workers from exposure to hazardous laser radiation. Here are the main provisions:

Adequate Protection

Laser enclosures should be designed to maintain the laser radiation at levels below the Maximum Permissible Exposure (MPE) outside the enclosure. The enclosure should provide sufficient shielding from direct, scattered, and reflected laser radiation.

Access Panels and Windows

If access panels or windows are included in the enclosure, they should block or reduce laser radiation to safe levels. Laser protective viewing windows, barriers, or curtains should adhere to the guidelines provided in ANSI Z136.1.


Interlocks should be installed on all removable panels and doors. In situations where the enclosure has to be opened, an interlock system should automatically terminate or reduce the laser emission to a safe level. There should also be procedures to ensure that the interlocks are checked periodically and maintained appropriately.

Warning Signs

Appropriate laser safety signs indicating the laser class and the potential hazards should be displayed on the enclosure. The signage should conform to the specifications set out in the ANSI Z136.1 standard.

Laser technology has transformed many industries, but it’s important that these powerful tools are used safely. OSHA’s guidelines for laser enclosures, derived from the ANSI Z136.1 standard, are designed to safeguard workers from potential laser hazards. Through understanding and implementing these standards, employers can create a safe work environment that harnesses the power of lasers without compromising the safety of their workforce. Regular training, periodic maintenance and inspections, and a strong safety culture are key to ensuring these standards are effectively upheld.


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