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Laser Eye Protection Basics

In general, anyone operating a laser ranging from a low powered Class 1 laser up to a high powered Class 4 should be concerned about laser eye protection. It is absolutely essential to protect your eyes when using a laser system classed 3B or above in locations where eye exposure is above the MPE, or Maximum Permissible Exposure.


A Class 1 laser is considered to be incapable of exceeding the MPE because it simply doesn’t produce radiation. However, it is a good habit to wear laser safety eyewear when operating a class 1 laser, because it ensures that wearing safety equipment becomes a pattern of behavior whenever you are working around lasers. Keep in mind that even Class 1 lasers, if passed through an optical device that focuses the beam, can be enhanced and cause damage to the eye.


Class 2 lasers produce a wave pattern that is detectable to the human eye and causes the eye to blink, therefore preventing any damage. There are situations where the laser can still cause damage, even though natural protection occurs. If a person holds his eye open by concentrating on an object or suppressing the blink reflect, damage will likely occur. Laser eye protection that keeps the eye shielded from exposure should always be considered under these conditions.

OSHA, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, requires that anyone operating a Class 3 or higher level laser system wear laser eye protection at all times when the system is in use. The safety eyewear can be in the style of glasses or goggles, depending on the specific type of laser in use. The glasses have to block the particular wavelength of emission of the laser, and laser eye protection is not universal for all systems. Many lasers emit more than one wavelength, meaning that the laser eye protection has to be geared for all the emissions, not just the lowest level possible.
Laser eye protection is rated and categorized based on optical density testing, also known as OD rating. This rating is shown as a number that comes after the letters OD in a product description. The rating signifies the factor of 10 by which the glasses filter and reduce a beam power. Therefore, a number 2 would indicate 100 times reduction, 3 would mean a 1000 times reduction and so on. YAG is the designation for laser eye protection acceptable for YAG lasers and dual frequency types of lasers. Laser glasses and goggles also have to be able to resist breaking when exposed to a direct laser beam.

When shopping for laser protection, there are several ways to determine which glasses and goggles are right for the job at hand. The first is to use the specific wavelength rating that the eyewear is approved for. The second is to shop by laser type. The eyewear manufacturer should list the specific lasers that the glasses or goggles are approved for.

Although laser safety eyewear may not be mandatory for class 1 and class 2 lasers, it is a good practice to wear protective glasses or goggles each time you are using a laser.  Doing so may instill a good habit that could protect your eyesight in the future.


MSEC remains dedicated to providing the very best and the very latest in medical supplies and equipment.  We never cease to be on the lookout for the latest innovation that will benefit both our many clients and the patients they dedicate their lives to caring for.  If you have any difficulty finding your choices in our vast inventory, call our customer service at 1-877-706-4480 to speed up your order or to make a special request.  We are always happy to help you.

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