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The Laser Safety Checklist - Be aware of your environment

ElectricPlasma

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Laser Safety Environmental Pre-cautions

Generally, when it comes to laser environments I think of two situations. When shining to infinity or the laser dot hitting a surface within semi-close proximity of the laser housing.

Objectives are in green, and hazards/dangers are in red.

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When outside/shining to infinity

Check the sky for aircraft or wild life.
Planes and helicopters always have present indicator lights. Sometimes they flash, and common colours are green and red. But, any colour light that doesn't look like a star should be considered. If you're having trouble differentiating a star from aircraft, look at it for 10 seconds or more to see if it has moved. If not, star. If so, aircraft. Personally, I wait for about 5 minutes or so for a clear sky with no aircraft, and if there are I generally won't shine at all. Hitting a plane with a laser of any power is a federal offence and can earn you years in jail.

Check possible distractions.
This can work both ways, you being a distraction for others or others distracting you. Primarily drivers, you need to look out for other individuals operating vehicles. Whether this be boats, bikes, cars, anything is applicable when it comes to needing a high level of focus. If any one of these drivers look up to see a beam of light and crash, you are responsible and can be blamed. On the other hand, you need to make sure you're not distracted by anything as well. I can't think of any immediate or obvious examples, but something that you would set your laser down while on to look at is a no-no. Attend to your laser's operation at all times, especially in public.

Be aware of your line of sight, as well as others' safety.
This should be obvious, but personal safety is often mentioned more than surrounding safety. When outside, light could travel infinitely until it hits something. That light beam is faster than any living being's reaction time, and it's your job to control that beam of light. When wielding a laser, you could potentially take away someone's sight for life. Before shining, look around you and make sure there's no others in the distance that you may hit. A very visible laser beam may attract others, if you're at a populated area such as a downtown metropolitan area, they may join you and ask about it. If you're not one to welcome that, going to a non-populated area is advised.

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When indoors or shining on surfaces

Safety goggles/glasses are absolutely necessary.
A laser dot contains a large amount of energy in such a small space, in the form of light. Your eyes are extremely sensitive to light, and a direct exposure to this very dense energy light for less than a second will blind you for life. We can prevent this by wearing a special type of light filtering glasses, somewhat like the way sunglasses work. But, sunglasses will not work as laser safety glasses. These glasses need to be coated for the correct wavelength. Do not purchase any laser safety glasses under $30, buy from an authorized and reputable seller such as survival lasers. $5 lasers from China will not be sufficient, and have been proven unsafe.

Be fully aware of what you are pointing at.
With a massive amount of light comes the heat as well. Lasers higher than Class IV (>500mW) burn certain objects very easily, lower powers do burn as well but not as intensely. Lasers like this can most definitely burn furniture such as carpet and couches, hardwood floors, curtains, walls etc. You need to make sure that you are not burning anything against your desire. If the heat build up in an object from a laser is sufficient enough, the object could be set on fire.

Keep in mind of any dangerous objects/surfaces.
Look out for anything noticeably reflective/smooth such as a mirror, polished metal, or even something smooth like a desk. The last thing you want is a laser beam reflected back at you into your eye. Even with safety goggles/glasses, you should not take a chance. Something else dangerous that you need to look out for are flammable items, a high powered laser can easily ignite a match or alcohol. CAREFUL WITH WINDOWS - None are 100% transparent, and WILL reflect a solid beam back towards you, this goes for any type of glass at all. All reflected beams are also a danger and this is no exception. Windows are also a bad thing to be pointing a laser through, you don't know exactly where/what you'll hit.

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Be careful with lasers, treat them like a loaded gun. It is very easy to create dangerous situations with a laser if you're not careful, be responsible and eliminate that possibility!

-E.P.
 
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Razako

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Good post. Sums up most of the common beginners questions very well IMO.
 

SyKo

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If you dont mind i might print some of these out and send them along with laser modules/diodes i sell?
 
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This is a great guide, I might ad that the portion you have in red for article #1. I would recommend removing the part about 5mw. That is not accurate. Hitting a plane with ANY laser of ANY power can result in jail time or fines.

Airspace zones[edit]
The U.S. FAA has established airspace zones. These protect the area around airports and other sensitive airspace from the hazards of safe-but-too-bright visible laser light exposure:

The Laser Free Zone extends immediately around and above runways, as depicted at right. Light irradiance within the zone must be less than 50 nanowatts per square centimeter (0.05 microwatts per square centimeter). This was set at "a level that would not cause any visual disruption."[18]
The Critical Flight Zone covers 10 nautical miles (NM) around the airport; the light limit is 5 microwatts per square centimeter (μW/cm²). This "was determined to be the level at which significant glare problems can occur."[22]
The optional Sensitive Flight Zone is designated by the FAA, military or other aviation authorities where light intensity must be less than 100 μW/cm². This might be done for example around a busy flight path or where military operations are taking place. This "was identified as the level of exposure at which significant flash blindness and afterimages could interfere with a pilot's visual performance."[22]
The Normal Flight Zone covers all other airspace. The light intensity must be less than 2.5 milliwatts per square centimeter (2500 μW/cm²). This is about half of the Class 3R power level, and is not considered hazardous for a brief exposure.
For non-visible lasers (infrared and ultraviolet), the irradiance at the aircraft must be eye-safe—below the Maximum Permissible Exposure level for that wavelength. For pulsed visible lasers, the irradiance at the aircraft must be both eye-safe and must be at or below any applicable FAA laser zone.

In the UK, restrictions are in place in a zone that includes a circle 3 nmi (5.6 km) in radius around an aerodrome (airport) plus extensions off each end of each runway. The runway zones are rectangles 20 nmi (37 km) in total length and 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) wide, centered about each runway.
 

InfinitusEquitas

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Excellent post!

I would just suggest adding a bit to the dangerous objects/surfaces section.

Just about anything can be reflective. The most commonly overlooked surface seems to be window glass. Even if just 5% is reflected back, from a 1W+ laser that's more than enough to do damage.

Any smooth surface will reflect, glossy monitor (not to mention lasers burn out pixels really fast!), plastic bezel, bathroom tile, etc,.

The best and safest way to enjoy a laser beam indoors is with a beam dump. A brick or a rock painted black works perfectly.
 

ElectricPlasma

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Thanks guys! I've editted the part about planes. You are correct, I just wasn't quite sure of the laws. I would imagine that it would be close if not the same laws here in Canada as the USA, regardless I've changed it to never point any laser at a plane! :)

@IE, that's true though most smooth surfaces that are non-reflective and absorb some light, resulting in a pretty wide divergence. But I do see what you mean, something like a countertop or a chair could indeed be more reflective than some people think. I'll add a bit to it!
 
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ElectricPlasma

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Just made the edit for the last paragraph, sorry for the double post but this is important: Windows are dangerous if you point a laser at em'!!! When I had got my first 303 I almost killed my eyes by pulling the idiotic move of pointing it through a window, and was very close by getting hit by the reflected beam. Other dangers are included with shining through a window, it limits your field of view and you can't see much else besides directly in front of you. Just a bad idea to do so!
 
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One more thing to add, when inserting batteries and screwing on the tailcap be sure the laser is pointed in a safe direction. Twice I have had a laser turn on when not expecting it while screwing on the tailcap, both happened the first time using the laser, but be careful I can imagine a bad accident happening this way. There was a YouTube video once in some thread where this happened and a guy burned his hand.

Alan
 
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One more thing to add, when inserting batteries and screwing on the tailcap be sure the laser is pointed in a safe direction. Twice I have had a laser turn on when not expecting it while screwing on the tailcap, both happened the first time using the laser, but be careful I can imagine a bad accident happening this way. There was a YouTube video once in some thread where this happened and a guy burned his hand.

Alan
Really good point. I have also had close calls from this one time and it scared to bejeezus out of me. Its so easy to get complacent. Its a good rule to not keep batteries in the devices when not in use.
 
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Really good points, thanks!

Maybe you can add one sentence to mention that some materials under certain laser excitation could be highly luminescent at different/higher wavelength than the laser source, so it may raise a risky situation even if you have proper safety glasses for the wavelength of our laser.
 
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ElectricPlasma

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Really good points, thanks!

Maybe you can add one sentence to mention that some materials under certain laser excitation could be highly luminescent at different/higher wavelength than the laser source, so it may raise a risky situation even if you have proper safety glasses for the wavelength of our laser.
No problem.

If a laser's output beam is absorbed by a phosphorus material and managed to produce a different wavelength, the brightness of the object would not be harmful under most circumstances, even if safety goggles aren't worn. The light would no longer be collimated and is not a threat, it's not being reflected or aimed so no harm there either. I see your point, but it's not much of a safety issue unless we're talking about 10+ watt lasers, and in that case there should be a lot more safety precautions that should be followed. :)
 
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