Optical radiation - Yleistä


General information on topic

All the known harmful effects of radiation can be avoided as long as the limit values set for artificial optical radiation are observed.

Optical radiation can damage skin and eyes. It can also be a factor in accidents due to a person’s being momentarily blinded, for example. Ultraviolet radiation and infrared radiation carry a risk of occupational disease.

Employer’s responsibility to reduce the harmful effects of optical radiation

As artificial optical radiation can be harmful to workers, occupational safety regulations obligate employers to take steps to reduce the risk. The regulations do not apply to sunlight.

It is the employer’s responsibility to determine the level of exposure to artificial optical radiation, carry out a risk assessment and either eliminate or minimise the harmful effects of radiation. The limit values set for optical radiation also need to be factored in and action taken if the limit values are or can be exceeded.

There are also regulations concerning the use of lasers that employers must observe.

Determination of the level of exposure to artificial optical radiation

Employers have a duty to determine the level of artificial optical radiation present in the workplace by

  • identifying all equipment and processes in the workplace that produce optical radiation
  • investigating whether any employees of theirs are exposed to the optical radiation produced by such equipment or processes, and
  • determining the level of exposure with the help of a specialist if there are any such sources of radiation in the workplace that
    • can pose a risk if positioned or used inappropriately or
    • pose a danger if preventive action is not taken.

The level of exposure must be reassessed at regular intervals and especially whenever the sources of optical radiation in the workplace, the way in which they are used or the circumstances in which employees can be exposed change. Records of exposure levels and the findings of assessments must be kept for as long as necessary to monitor employees’ exposure and implement preventive measures. If the employer’s assessment concludes that all light sources in the workplace are safe from the perspective of optical radiation, no further action need be taken. However, the employer still needs to keep a record of the exposure assessment.

Assessment and reduction of the risk posed by artificial optical radiation

Employers have a responsibility to carry out an artificial optical radiation risk assessment in order to

  • evaluate the impact of exposure to optical radiation to their employees’ health and safety and
  • incorporate the assessment into their occupational health care provider’s workplace survey or another survey, taking into account
    • the level, wavelength range and duration of exposure to artificial sources of optical radiation
    • the exposure limit values
    • any effects concerning the health and safety of workers belonging to particularly sensitive risk groups
    • any possible effects on workers’ health and safety resulting from workplace interactions between optical radiation and photosensitising chemical substances
    • any indirect effects such as temporary blinding, explosion or fire
    • multiple sources of exposure to artificial optical radiation
    • the safety classification of lasers, and
    • information provided by the manufacturers of optical radiation sources and associated work equipment and personal protective equipment.

Any identified hazards or risks posed by exposure to optical radiation must then be eliminated or minimised taking into account

  • technical progress and
  • whatever means are available to eliminate or reduce the risk or the associated harmful effects.

Guidance on the implementation of Directive 2006/25/EC includes useful information about evaluating the risk and harmful effects of optical radiation and explains differences between sources of radiation and the kinds of hazards that they pose to workers.

Training and instruction of employees

Any workers who are exposed to artificial optical radiation must be provided with information about their personal optical radiation risk assessment. Exposed employees must also be explained

  • what has been and will be done at the workplace to eliminate or minimise the hazards or risks associated with optical radiation
  • the exposure limit values and any associated risks
  • the results of exposure risk assessments, measurements and calculations and their significance from the perspective of workers’ safety and health
  • the symptoms of potential health issues resulting from radiation and how to report them to the employer and occupational health care professionals
  • the actions of the employer’s occupational health care provider in respect of optical radiation
  • safe procedures to reduce exposure to optical radiation, and
  • the correct way to use personal protective equipment designed to shield workers from optical radiation.

Employer’s responsibilities based on the level of exposure

If the employer’s radiation risk assessment shows that a worker’s exposure could exceed the limit value, the employer must establish and implement a radiation control programme that factors in

  • other working methods that reduce the risk from optical radiation
  • the choice of equipment emitting less optical radiation
  • technical modification of equipment to reduce the emission of optical radiation
  • appropriate maintenance programmes for the workplace, work equipment and workstation systems
  • the design and layout of workplaces and workstations
  • limitation of the duration and level of the exposure
  • the availability of appropriate personal protective equipment, and
  • the instructions of the manufacturer of the equipment.

All workplaces where workers could be exposed to levels of optical radiation exceeding the exposure limit values must be indicated by appropriate signs. The areas in question must be identified and access to them limited where this is technically possible and where there is a risk that the exposure limit values could be exceeded.

Where the employer’s radiation risk assessment shows levels of optical radiation exceeding the limit value, the employer must

  • take immediate action to reduce the exposure to below the limit value and
  • adapt the protection and prevention measures in order to prevent the limit value’s being exceeded again.

Health examinations due to optical radiation

Employers must instruct their occupational health care provider to take optical radiation and the use of lasers into account in their workplace survey. Work is considered to carry a special risk of illness if the risk of laser radiation or other forms of optical radiation causing damage to workers’ eyes cannot be eliminated by technical means. Employees performing such work may need regular health examinations.

Use of lasers

It is the employer’s duty to know the safety classes of any lasers that are used in the workplace, as it is the safety classification that determines the employer’s obligations. The safety classes for laser devices are 1, 1M, 2, 2M, 3R, 3B and 4, with Class 4 lasers being the most dangerous.

Employer’s general obligations regarding the use of lasers

It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that any employees of theirs who use lasers or who work in areas where lasers are used know the equipment and the need to use personal protective equipment.

The employer must also ensure that

  • only qualified personnel specifically assigned for the work operate Class 4 lasers
  • the eyes and skin of any employees who work in the danger zone of Class 4 lasers are protected
  • workers’ eyes are not directly exposed to laser beams from Class 2, 3 or 4 laser devices
  • workers’ skin is not directly exposed to laser beams from Class 4 laser devices
  • workers’ eyes are not exposed to laser beams from Class 1M, Class 2M or higher classes of laser devices via optical instruments
  • laser beams are never pointed directly at people
  • laser beams are generally not operated at eye height, and
  • steps are taken to trap laser beams using a highly absorbent and, if necessary, fireproof material.

When Class 3B or 4 laser devices are being used, the employer must also

  • keep the area in which the lasers are operated and the surrounding danger zone under surveillance and prevent unauthorised access to these areas
  • take steps to prevent unnecessary reflections from laser beams
  • instruct workers to wear eye protectors in the danger zone and ensure that the instructions are followed in practice
  • trap laser beams by means of shielding where possible, and
  • provide the routes leading to the area where lasers are operated with laser radiation warning signs.

Health examinations after overexposure to a laser beam

If a worker is suspected of having been exposed to excessive levels of laser radiation, it is the employer’s duty to immediately organise a health examination for the worker in order to detect any eye or skin injuries. The reason for the overexposure must also be established.

Optical radiation - Muualla Tyosuojelu.fissä