Incidents with UV and laser sources

UV and Lasers sources are discussed together because they are both non-ionising radiation sources and are involved in similar incidents.

Lasers have a wide variety of uses. They are used extensively in the medical industry and increasingly in beauty therapy. They are also used for cutting, curing and imprinting in research and industry. Lasers pointers are also used by the general public commonly. Users should be aware that many for general use do not comply with Australian standards and may be dangerous and illegal.

The main uses of UV sources include: curing, drying or imprinting colours or dyes; sterilising and analysing of DNA bands.

The main incidents involving these sources are eye injuries and erythema (reddening of the skin).

Causes

Human error

The human causes of these incidents include:

  • By-passing interlocks: staff have bypassed interlocks to use or access the source resulting in incidents from the UV or laser light.
  • Incorrect set-up: incidents have occurred where staff have not followed procedures when setting up the UV or laser source, resulting in exposures from reflected or refracted light.
  • Not knowing the risk: workers, researchers and students are unaware of the hazards associated with using UV or laser sources, therefore use them incorrectly, resulting in incidents.

Technology factors

  • Malfunctions: sources malfunction or the safety interlocks fail and as a result, unintentional UV or laser light emission occurs.
  • No interlocks: UV and laser sources, depending where they are purchased, may or may not have appropriate interlocks to protect workers.

Organisation factors

  • Not providing staff training: incidents occur because organisations fail to provide adequate training and guidance to users or maintenance workers.
  • Oversight: organisations fail to adequately supervise staff undertaking work resulting in them modifying or adjusting their work practices and procedures.