Newly Revised ANSI Z136.1 Standard Fosters a Safe Facility

By Geoff Giordano

ANSI_Z136-1_Blue 2014_NEWWith the rollout of the updated ANSI Z136.1 parent standard for laser safety, the Laser Institute of America is updating its training courses to reflect the new guidelines, revised for the first time since 2007.

The new ANSI Z136.1 American National Standard for Safe Use of Lasers is a must-have for several reasons, says Barbara Sams, executive director of the Board of Laser Safety (BLS®).

“If you have the 2007 version, you need the 2014 to take advantage of the substantial changes” such as new maximum permissible exposure limits (MPEs) and new definitions of key terms. Some sections and appendices have also been dramatically retooled to make them easier to use.

Another key reason to buy now is convenience. “This is going to be the last appearance of the full parent standard,” she says. “The next revision will be smaller, with more of the specifics presented in the companion documents” such as the Z136.3, which governs the safe use of lasers in health care, or Z136.9, which covers manufacturing environments. “Things like control measures will go to the documents for the specific applications and areas where they apply,” Sams explains, “so information on control measures will be greatly reduced” in the parent standard. “MPEs will probably stay in the Dot 1 — but it will be necessary in the future to have both (standards).”

And for now, LIA is still offering an early-purchase discount: $135 for LIA members, $155 for non-members. When the promotion ends, the price will rise to $173 for LIA members and $193 for non-members. (To obtain the newly revised ANSI Z136.1 standard and view a sample of the publication, visit LIA’s online store at LIA is the secretariat of the Accredited Standards Committee (ASC) Z136, which develops the laser safety standards. The ANSI Z136.1 standard guides the safe use of lasers and laser systems by defining control measures for the seven laser hazard classifications.

The first LIA course to be updated to reflect the many changes in the Z136.1-2014 is the flagship Laser Safety Officer (LSO) with Hazard Analysis, course says Education Director Gus Anibarro. “We ran the updated version of that course in March for the first time,” he says. The three-day classroom-based LSO course was updated in time for St. Louis attendees in June. As for online courses, the LSO course will reflect new guidelines on safety signage.

LIA courses unaffected by the new Z136.1 standard are Industrial Laser Safety Officer Training, Laser Safety Officer Training for Research & Development and all medical courses.

In the March course, “the new standard was well received,” Anibarro says. “We had to talk about changes in the MPEs, and we did example problems based on that.” He will emphasize differences between the 2007 and 2014 versions of Z136.1 for about a year.

The key changes in the 2014 version of the parent standard, as related by Ben Rockwell, chairman of ASC Z136 Standards Subcommittee 1 (SSC-1), include:

  • 19 new definitions of key terms, including administrative control measure, beam divergence, beam waist, saturable absorption and visible luminous transmission.
  • A significant increase in allowed exposure levels for wavelengths between 1.2 µm and 1.4 µm, and a slight decrease in exposure limits for pulses shorter than approximately 10 µs.
  • An updated section on “special qualifications” for medical-related exposures to include MPEs expressed in terms of illuminance.
  • Rearranged Section 4 (Control Measures) and rewritten Section 7 (Non-beam Hazards) to increase comprehension.
  • Examples involving new exposure limits added to Appendix B.
  • Vertical standards — Z136.2 through Z136.9 — now take precedence over this document within the scope of those standards. This makes the Z136.1 officially a horizontal standard.
  • The degradation of optics transmission in the UV and NIR is now included in the analysis of hazard classification of lasers.

While some organizations might still adhere to the 2007 or even the 2000 standard, “it’s always best to go with the most current document because, inspection-wise, that’s what OSHA will refer to,” Anibarro suggests. “If you’re following the 2007 standard, I don’t think they’ll ding you for it. But if a compliance officer performs an inspection, he will refer to the most current ANSI standard for safety. Just be aware that if a compliance officer shows up and they ask you where your ANSI standard is, and they see yours is 2007 but they know there is a 2014 standard, they might ask why you’re not following the 2014 standard. Ultimately it’s the decision of the compliance officer” to make an issue of such an instance.

Changing from the 2007 standard to the 2014 standard “is not really going to be that difficult for somebody who has a safety program in place. They don’t even have to make changes to signage, because the signage they have has been grandfathered in.” However, the new standard introduces a “warning” sign and explains how to use it in addition to the prior “caution,” “danger” and “notice” signs.

In terms of hazard calculations, facilities with lasers that are repetitively pulsed are affected by the change in MPEs, he notes. For such devices “the calculations have gotten a little bit easier. You had three rules to follow for an MPE calculation in the old standard; now you only have two for point sources.” Furthermore, the MPE tables have been separated out by wavelength ranges to make it easier to find information. “Before we had two MPE tables for the eye and one for the skin; now we’ve got about six tables for the eye and three for the skin.”

Speaking of injuries, Anibarro says the requirement for medical surveillance has been removed. Now, the standard discusses medical exams and requires one if there is suspicion of a laser eye injury.

All in all, “it’s not going to be a dramatic impact on companies” to switch to the 2014 standard, Anibarro advises. More convenient, more current — and, for a limited time, at a discounted price — the ANSI Z136.1-2014 standard is a powerful piece of insurance to protect laser users and their employers.

To purchase the newly revised ANSI Z136.1 standard, visit