Written Laser Safety Information for Staff

What are 'Local Rules'?

Under the Control of Artificial Optical Radiation at Work Regulations 2010, employees at risk, must be provided with laser safety training and information. Having written safety information to provide to staff is a basic way to help demonstrate compliance with this requirement. In the medical/cosmetic sector, written laser safety procedures are sometimes referred to as 'local rules'.

What should they include?

The document should be as concise, clear and readable as possible. It may typically include information such as,

laser safety training - Nature of the main hazards
- Definition of a designated working area
- Key safety instructions
- Correct use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Meaning of signage
- Emergency procedures
- Refer to specific operating procedures for the activity

Does this need to be a separate document?

It makes sense to have a separate document for the safety information in activities where there are several different staff groups. For example a hospital theatre where there would be both a laser operator and also a number of 'assisting staff' in the area. Whilst assisting staff must be provided with safety information, they wouldn't need detailed information on the laser operation. Where laser activities do not involve assisting staff, the safety information could be incorporated into the written procedures for the activity ('SOP', 'work instruction', 'protocol' etc.) if applicable, rather than as a separate document.

What size of business does this apply to?

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, businesses with 5 or more employees must have written policies and procedures. However, even if there is one employee, they must still be provided with laser safety information. Whilst this can be done in a number of ways, having a written document is a simple way of providing evidence that this has been done.

Where does the term 'local rules' come from?

In the early days of medical laser safety, in UK hospitals, terminology from ionising radiation safety (x-rays etc.) was roughly carried over into laser safety. The term not appear in legilastion, but has endured, seemingly as a convenient short-hand for titles such as, 'laser safety information and procedures for staff'. The term can tend to cause some confusion though.

Are 'local rules' effective in the real world?

The short answer is, in practice, at most establishments, no. Laser safety information typically tends to be gained verbally or via other practical training. Providing staff with a document (often with lots of other paperwork at their induction) to passively read and sign, is unlikely to hold up (in court) as effective provision of training and information.

The effectiveness can be improved by,

a) Actively checking understanding, e.g. a short verbal test,

b) Refresher/update, either periodically, or if there has been a break in the activity.

c) Ensuring the document is concise and clear enough that the content becomes retained working practice. There's little point in having essential safety information stored away in a dusty folder for reference.

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