Only four years after the introduction of the laser in 1960, the first documented laser accident was reported. While the skin is the larger body target, eye injuries receive our primary attention. Disturbingly, some safety professionals believe that laser eye injuries are so prevalent that one can write the accident description in a report and just wait to fill in the location and user name. The typical laser eye injury occurs during procedures involving alignment or manipulation of an optical device with a Class 3B or Class 4 laser beam present. During these procedures, no laser eye protection is worn because the individual is often inexperienced in laser safety matters.
There is no national or international reporting system for laser injuries. However, a number of interested parties, including the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Defense (DOD), and FAA have created separate databases to track injuries. The U.S. CDRH maintains a database for laser-related equipment incidents. The most inclusive laser incident database was started by R. James Rockwell, Jr. over 40 years ago and includes data back to the first known incident in 1964. This database is still maintained by Rockwell Laser Industries (RLI) and comprises only confirmed laser accidents and incidents, as well as data from the governmental databases. The RLI database (RLID) is the closest thing to a national database in the U.S. Their data is available at the Rockwell Laser Industries website: http://www.rli. com/resources/accident.aspx.
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