laser standard operating procedure guidelines


Laser and Laser System Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) Guidelines


I.                    Guidelines for SOPs


A.      Written SOP's must address normal operations as well as beam alignment for each laser or laser system.  In addition, they should include non-beam hazard management and servicing of the laser or laser system.

B.       Keep SOP's brief to increase their probability of use.

C.      It may be helpful to utilize the Laser Safety Manual in developing your SOPs.  This document may be viewed at:

D.      The Office of Environmental Health & Safety will be happy to review and comment on your draft SOPs.  The Laser Safety Officer (LSO) may be reached at (504) 988-2867.


II.                 Beam Alignment  (Concerns to be addressed in the SOPs)


A.      Security-Secure the lab to avoid distractions by marking the door with an appropriate sign or marker "NOTICE- Laser Work In Progress-Do Not Enter-Eye Protection Required."

B.       Beam Characteristics-Is the beam visible or invisible?  Is special equipment needed to view the beam?  If the beam is pulsed, is it possible to fire one pulse at a time to limit exposure time and hazards?

C.      Beam Viewing-Intrabeam viewing is prohibited on Tulane campuses, and a remote viewing device should be used if intrabeam viewing is required for beam alignment.  Only diffuse reflections may be viewed directly.   Always use the lowest beam power possible that will still allow viewing of an image with proper protective eyewear.

D.      Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)-Use laser protective eyewear with a low enough Optical Density (OD) to allow viewing of the diffuse reflection.  Use appropriate body shields (gloves, lab coat, UV face shield) to protect against UV beam scatter.

E.       Personnel-It is ideal to have two people involved in the alignment process at all times.  If this is not possible, at least let someone know where you will be and when you plan to have the alignment process completed.  Regular check-ins are advised.

F.       Replace Beam Controls-Insure all beam locks, enclosures and beam barriers are replaced when the alignment is complete.

G.      Remove Door Signs-Verify that the "NOTICE- Laser Work In Progress-Do Not Enter-Eye Protection Required." Sign is removed from the room entrance and that the regular ANSI laser warning is still in place.



III.               Normal Operation of the Laser  (Concerns to be addressed in the SOPs)


A.      Security-Doors opening to areas where lasers are in use must be secure.  A closed door does not constitute Security.  Doors must be rendered unopenable by using standard door locks or by activating door interlocks.

B.       Personal Protective Equipment-Have the appropriate safety equipment on hand.  Specify what is needed and its specific use.

C.      Start-Up Procedures-Insert key, turn on water, turn on power supply, close shutter, activate laser, etc. as specific to your laboratory.

D.      Experimental Procedure-Specific to your laboratory.

E.       Emergency Procedure-Note the location of the Emergency Shut-Off mechanism, emergency procedure posting, fire extinguisher, safety shower, emergency eyewash station, etc.

F.       Shutdown Procedure-Specific to your laboratory.

G.      Storage-Remove laser activation key and deactivate interlocks.  Store these devices in a secure location.


IV.              Non-Beam Hazards to Address  (Concerns to be addressed in the SOPs)


A.      Electrical Hazards-Only properly trained personnel may work with high voltage systems.  It is ideal to have two people involved in the alignment process at all times.  If this is not possible, at least let someone knows where you will be and when you plan to have the alignment process completed.  Regular check-ins are advised.  Laboratory staff may be trained in CPR as a precaution.

B.       Fire Protection-Attention should be given to preventing fires and explosions.  Flammable solvents are frequently used as laser dyes and to clean optical parts.  Fire extinguishers should be well marked and staff should be versed in their proper classification and use.

C.      Compressed Gases-Staff should be trained in the safe management of cylinders and the associated hazards of the compressed gases being used.

D.      Toxicity of Lasing Media-Toxic laser dyes should be handled with a lab coat, safety glasses and gloves.  Dyes shall be mixed in a properly functioning fume hood and transported in sealed, leak proof containers.  Dye pumps should sit in a secondary containment tray.  Concentrated halogen gases should be used and stored in a properly functioning gas cabinet.

E.       Housekeeping-Poor housekeeping leads to injuries by creating physical hazards.  Remedy all potentially hazardous situations.


V.                 Safety Associated with Servicing the Laser


A.      Only PI approved and properly trained personnel shall service laser systems.  If Tulane staff assists outside service staff, they must follow Tulane University laser safety policies.  e.g. using proper protective equipment

B.       If Tulane University staff perform repairs or services to the laser or laser system, all enclosures, interlocks, and safety devices must be replaced and proven operational before resumption of normal laser activities.

C.      Safety devices or interlocks shall not be bypassed or defeated without the express written approval of Tulane's Office of Environmental Health & Safety Laser Safety Officer.

 SOP's are not limited to the above guidelines.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 - Some photos courtesy of the Peace Corps -