International standards for lasers and intense light sources used in medicine and aesthetics are written by the IEC and incorporated in Europe by the CEN or CENELEC and in Britain by the BSI. These standards are designed to ensure that manufacturers create (and companies sell) electrical products that are safe to use. Standards are supplemented by ‘technical reports’ which provide guidance for use of such products. Technical reports may be written directly for the consumer. Non-electrical products (for example laser or IPL safety goggles) are covered by the ISO.
These product standards are where we find things such as laser classes (e.g. Class 3b and 4 lasers), details of laser and IPL eyewear markings, Maximum Permissible Exposures and tolerances on laser and IPL energy outputs.
So what if a product doesn’t meet the standard? Whilst product standards do not inherently have a legal standing, the Control of Artificial Optical Radiation at Work Regulations 2010 states that “In carrying out the assessment, measurement or calculation, the employer must follow the following standards or recommendations—
(a) for laser radiation, the standards of the IEC; or
(b) for non-coherent radiation, the standards of the IEC and the recommendations of the CIE and the CEN.”
Thus, standards MUST be considered in your risk assessments. For manufacturers, the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974 requires equipment suppliers to “design, manufacture and supply articles for use at work that are safe, so far as is reasonably practicable, in all reasonably foreseeable circumstances of use”. Not keeping to the standards could be seen as not fulfilling this requirement.
There are also a number of organisations in the UK (including the BMLA) which publish recommendations to help the continual improvement of safe practice.
For the benefit of our members and towards the improvement in safe use of lasers and light based equipment in medicine and aesthetics, the BMLA will be publishing a series of posts on standards and guidelines here on our website.
Check again soon for the next installment!