The Control of Artificial Optical Radiation at Work Regulations 2010 came into effect on the 27th April 2010
The purpose of the Control of Artificial Optical Radiation at Work Regulations is to protect workers against exposure to harmful artificial light, such as laser displays and includes sources of ultraviolet, infrared, and visible light. Too much exposure to certain light sources can be harmful to the eyes and the skin.
Examples of hazardous sources of very intense light that pose a ‘reasonably forseable’ risk of harming the yes and skin of workers and where control measures are needed include:
- Metal working – welding (both arc and oxy-fuel) and plasma cutting – mainly eye damage;
- Pharmaceutical and research – UV fluorescence and sterilisation systems – mainly skin burn;
- Hot industries – furnaces – eye and skin damage;
- Printing – UV curing of inks – mainly skin burn;
- Motor vehicle repairs – UV curing of paints – mainly skin burn;
- Medical and cosmetic treatments – laser surgery, blue light and UV therapies – eye and skin damage;
- Research and education – all uses of Class 3B and Class 4 lasers – potentially permanent eye and skin damage;
- Entertainment – high intensity lighting and lasers;
Less common hazardous sources can be associated with specialist activities – for example companies manufacturing or repairing equipment containing lasers which would otherwise be hidden.
Organisations already have duties under existing health and safety law to protect workers against these hazards, and the new AOR regulations restate the requirement for risk assessment, taking steps to eliminate or reduce risks, providing necessary training, and where appropriate, health surveillance.
Safe light sourcesinclude the vast majority used in the workplace such as:
- All forms of ceiling-mounted lighting used in offices etc with diffusers over the bulb. This includes compact fluorescent floodlighting; ceiling-mounted tungsten halogen spotlights; and ceiling-mounted tungsten lamps
- Compact fluorescent lamps and tungsten halogen lamps when situated at distances more than 60cm from the user
- All forms of task lighting. This includes desk lamps, including tungsten task lighting
- Computer or similar display equipment, including personal digital assistants
- Photographic flash-lamps
- Gas-fired overhead heaters
- Vehicle indicator, brake reversing and fog lamps
More intense sources could be a problem if they are stared at for long periods or if they are in very close proximity to workers. It is our natural instinct to look away from these before harm can occur and in addition, they are often used at a safe distance from workers. These measures continue to be acceptable and no special conditions are required. Examples include:
- Ceiling-mounted fluorescent lighting without diffusers over the bulb
- High-pressure mercury floodlighting
- Desktop projectors
- Interactive whiteboard presentation equipment
- Vehicle headlights
- Non-laser medical applications such as: theatre and task lighting; diagnostic lighting such as foetal transilluminators and X-ray viewing boxes
- UV insect traps
- Art and entertainment applications such as illuminating by spotlights, effect lights and flash-lamps
- Any Class 1, 1M, 2, 2M & 3R laser devices where not used in combination with magnifying aids. Examples include laser printers; CD/DVD recorders; materials processing lasers; disconnected fibre-optic systems; bar code scanners; level and alignment devices in civil engineering and surveying; and laser pointers.
What should you already be doing?
- If you have a hazardous light source you should have in place sensible control measures following the principles below:
- Use an alternative, safer light source which can achieve the same result
- Prevent access of the light source to the skin and eyes of workers by engineering controls eg screening, interlocks, clamping (rather than holding) work pieces
- Organise work to reduce exposure of workers and others – restrict access to hazardous areas by non-essential staff (eg use dedicated room; screening/barriers; display warning signs), increase distance between staff and source (eg remote control, time delays)
- Issue appropriate personal protective equipment – eg goggles and face shields
- Provide information and training to employees
- Have emergency arrangements in place
- Completed a risk assessment.
For further information and guidance visit the hse website
Terry Westley of TW Associates