One question all laser users will eventually be asked is, "In what class is your laser?" This has nothing to do with cost or where it was made, but rather reflects the potential for eye and skin damage by the laser.
The purpose of the laser hazard-classification system is to give the user and nonusers an immediate guide to the hazard potential of a laser system. The actual hazard will depend on how accessible the laser beam(s) are, but laser classes are an effective means of communicating hazard level, and they also set the tone for control measures.
Three organizations are involved in laser hazard classification. In the United States, the classification was established by the American National Standard Institute (ANSI) Z136 series on the Safe Use of Lasers, published by the Laser Institute of America. The Center for Devices & Radiological Health (CDRH) is a branch of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration that sets laser hazard classifications and requirements for laser products sold in the United States. Outside of the United States, the chief laser hazard classification organization is the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), which uses a combination of ANSI and CDRH elements to create their own set of standards. Laser hazard classification is based on the laser or laser system's normal mode of operation, not service or maintenance.
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