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Physical and Biological Hazards of the Workplace, 3rd Edition by Peter H. Wald, Gregg M. Stave

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Chapter 14LASER RADIATION

David H. Sliney and James A. Hathaway

Lasers are devices that produce an intense, coherent, directional beam of light by stimulating electronic or molecular transitions to lower energy levels.1 The beam of radiation emitted by lasers in common use may have a wavelength anywhere from the ultraviolet (UV) region of the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum to the far-infrared (FIR) region. This includes numerous lasers operating in the visible light portion of the EM spectrum. Lasers vary widely in the intensity of their outputs; they may generate brief bursts or pulses of energy or operate continuously. The potential hazard of laser radiation depends on all of these factors.

OCCUPATIONAL SETTING

The use of lasers in industry, construction, research, medicine, and the military is widespread and increasing. Lasers are used in alignment, welding, trimming, spectrophotometry, range-finding, interferometry, flash photolysis, fiber-optic communication systems, and surgical removal or repair procedures.2,3 Low-power lasers are also widely used in commercial activities and consumer applications, including supermarket checkout counters, detection of motor vehicle speed, as pointers for presentations, in CD-ROM drives for computers, and in CD, DVD, and laser disk players for home entertainment. Specific occupational titles may not be particularly helpful in identifying where lasers may be used. In industries using high-technology processes, various craftsmen, operators, ...

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