Laser Licence

Ray Hicks rayh at
Tue Nov 1 17:48:13 EST 2005

Hi Leonie,

It's an interesting but slightly disturbing question - here in the UK, the 
general  rule is that both employers and employees have the responsibility 
for safety, with the employer having the duty of ensuring that the employee 
is able to carry out work safely by means of training (testing and 
registering workers as "users" is the norm in the case of radiation and 
laser safety).	We don't seem to have the concept of licensing though, 
everyone from the employer down has to show their competence in some way for 
that particular role (or have their competence vouched for), so an employer 
requiring their employees to use class 4 lasers would hire someone to train 
and assess their employees, and to lay down a code of practice for the safe 
use of the lasers.  In some cases, such as universities, they'd set up a 
safety division and employ someone there to oversee the safety regimes in 
various departments, each of which (if they used lasers) would have a laser 
safety officer who would be writing the local rules and making sure users 
knew of them and implemented them. The overall laser safety person would be 
in touch with other organisations and enforcement agencies and would filter 
down through departmental officers any changes of legislation or approved 
code of practice, then safety officers would implement them, and filter back 
the procedures and rules implemeted locally to take into account suich 
changes.  It's part of the employer's responsibility to make sure this 
happens, and in a large organisation like a university, it's a natural way 
for it to work. For smaller organisations, I imagine that an employer would 
hire a competent agency to ensure that workable safe systems were set up, 
then have an employee or employees trained so that they'd be competent to 
implement (assessed as safe) approved working practices, and even be able to 
create their own systems of safe work and maybe send them off for assessment 
to the hired agency.

As far as I know, there's no system of "licensing" here where a user would 
be able to walk in and do what they liked, or be allowed to use any given 
system independently of a code of practice that was related to the laser 
system and approved by the employer or a competent agent of the employer. 
I'd be gobsmacked if my "management" asked me if I was ok to do some laser 
stuff (that they didn't know about and couldn't authorise me to do) - 
whether they called it a license, a registration or an authorisation - 
they'd be slipping massively in their duty to me as an employee.

I've only got experience of the UK laser safety system, but it seems to work 
on the whole (with some notable and sadly easily avoided injuries where it's 
ignored), the main principles are that users don't get hit by stray light 
let alone full beams or any electrical or chemical hazard in well-designed 
systems - in cases where the beams have to be exposed, the users should be 
fully aware of the hazards and risks and use appropriate personal protective 
equipment.  Prior risk assessments must be done to assess potential hazards 
and risks of exposure to the hazard, etc etc. But most importantly, the 
employer (generally "the management") should be informing the employee about 
safety, not asking them questions that would require them to seek further 
information from people outside of their organisation (I'm not suggesting 
you're wrong to do so, but they're wrong to put you in that situation).  I'd 
suggest that you put back to them the question "what does it take to obtain 
a licence?", hopefully there'll be some system in place already that they 
are unaware of, and they can get back to you with the answer to their own 
original question.



ps short answer:  I don't have a licence, and as far as I know I can't get 
one because I don't know what one would be,  but I am a laser safety officer 
and a laser user, and have undergone training and approval by my employer in 
both of these roles, working on risk-assessed laser systems using procedures 
that are designed to minimise risk, following approved local rules and codes 
of practice  - none of it took long to set up, but all of it adds to 
awareness and avoidance of potential injury - and it keeps the damned safety 
people off my back:)

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Leonie Gaudry" <L.gaudry at unsw.EDU.AU>
To: cyto-inbox
Sent: Monday, October 31, 2005 10:49 PM
Subject: Laser Licence

> Hi,
> I have a Sorter fitted with two water cooled Lasers. One is a 5 Watt
> Coherent Innova 90C and the other is a Coherent Innova 70C Spectrum.
> I have been asked by Management if I have a licence to operate these 
> Lasers
> even though I have had training from BD and Coherent in how to operate my
> system safely.
> My question is does anyone have a formal licence if they do where did they
> get it and what is involved?
> Any help would be appreciated.
> Thank you
> Best Wishes
> Leonie

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