FAQ [Health Devices Sep 1996;25(9):345-6]
What is a laser safety officer, and why is
The laser safety officer (LSO) is the person
given the authority by some group or individual within a healthcare facility to
monitor and enforce the control of laser hazards. This person should be able to
knowledgeably evaluate laser hazards in the facility and propose controls to
For U.S. healthcare facilities, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) defines the position of LSO and its responsibilities in both ANSI Z136.1 and Z136.3 (see References). According to these documents, the LSO's duties include classifying lasers, evaluating hazards, defining control measures, approving procedures, performing safety audits, and ensuring that appropriate training and medical surveillance take place.
Several U.S. regulatory and accrediting agencies expect that a facility will have an LSO, usually as part of a laser safety program, to ensure the safe use of surgical and other lasers. By not having an LSO and a laser safety program, facilities run the risk of being fined or not obtaining accreditation. For example, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) uses the ANSI standards as its guideline for evaluating a facility's laser safety precautions. In addition, during its inspections, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) looks for evidence of a laser safety program (that includes an LSO, labeling, routine equipment inspection, and training) when determining whether the facility meets its safe-environment-of-care requirements. Furthermore, some state departments of health require adherence to the ANSI standards, and some insurers may require that an LSO and a laser safety program be in place.
Outside the United States, the LSO and LSO's duties are defined by documents such as those from the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), and the U.K.'s Medical Devices Agency listed under References. Most of these guidelines refer to ANSI Z136.1 and Z136.3 and define the LSO and his or her responsibilities in a similar manner.
ANSI. American national standard for the safe use of lasers. New York: ANSI; 1986. ANSI Z136.1—1993.
ANSI. American national standard for the safe use of lasers in health care facilities. New York: ANSI; 1996. ANSI Z136.3—1996.
CSA. Laser safety in health care facilities. Rexdale (Toronto), ON: CSA; 1992. CSA Z386—92.
IEC. Guidelines for the safe use of medical laser equipment [draft]. Geneva: IEC; 1995 Nov. IEC 1389 (draft 1st edition).
Medical Devices Agency. Guidance on the safe use of lasers in medical and dental practice. London: Medical Devices Agency; 1995.