Several organizations concern themselves with laser safety. These organizations include the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Council of Radiation Control Program Directors (CRCPD). Several state governments and CRCPD have developed a model state standard for laser safety.

All laser devices distributed for both human and animal treatment in the U.S. are subject to Mandatory Performance Standards. They must meet the Federal laser product performance standard and must submit an "initial report" to CDRH's Office of Compliance prior to distributing the product (see 21 CFR 1000 - 1040)This performance standard specifies the safety features and labeling that all laser products must have in order to provide adequate safety to users and patients. A laser product manufacturer must certify that each model complies with the standard before introducing the laser into U.S. commerce. Compliance with standards must also be shown before clinical investigations prior to device approval.

Certification of a laser product means that each unit has passed a quality assurance test and that it complies with the performance standard. The firm that certifies a laser product assumes responsibility for product reporting, recordkeeping, and notification of defects, noncompliances, and accidental radiation occurrences, as specified in sections 21 CFR 1000-1010. A certifier of a laser product is required to report the product via a Laser Product Report submitted to CDRH. Reporting guides and related regulatory information are available from the Radiation-Emitting Products web site. Distribution of any certified laser products internationally also requires submission of the report.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes four major hazard classes (I to IV) of lasers, including three subclasses (IIa, IIIa, and IIIb). The higher the class, the more powerful the laser and the potential to pose serious danger if used improperly. Consumer laser products are generally in classes I, II, and IIIa, while lasers for professional use may be in classes IIIb and IV. The labeling for Classes II–IV must include a warning symbol that states the class and the output power of the product.
The FDA requires labels on most laser products that contain a warning about the laser radiation and other hazards, as well as a statement certifying that the laser complies with FDA safety regulations.


Class FDA Class IEC Laser Product Hazard Product Examples
I 1, 1M Considered non-hazardous. Hazard increases if viewed with optical aids, including magnifiers, binoculars, or telescopes.
  • laser printers
  • CD players
  • DVD players
IIa, II 2, 2M Hazard increases when viewed directly for long periods of time. Hazard increases if viewed with optical aids.
  • bar code scanners



Depending on power and beam area, can be momentarily hazardous when directly viewed or when staring directly at the beam with an unaided eye. Risk of injury increases when viewed with optical aids.
  • laser pointers
IIIb 3B Immediate skin hazard from direct beam and immediate eye hazard when viewed directly.
  • laser light show projectors
  • industrial lasers
  • research lasers
IV 4 Immediate skin hazard and eye hazard from exposure to either the direct or reflected beam; may also present a fire hazard.
  • laser light show projectors
  • industrial lasers
  • research lasers
  • lasers used to perform LASIK eye surgery

U.S.C. TITLE 18, CHAPTER 2, Section 39A, signed into law in 2012, makes it illegal to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft or aircraft flight path.

OSHA standards regarding lasers This website highlights OSHA standards, directives (instructions for compliance officers), standard interpretations (official letters of interpretation of the standards), and national consensus standards related to laser hazards.

OSHA Technical Manual on lasers and laser hazards.

International Regulations:

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) is the authoritative worldwide body responsible for developing consensus global standards in the electrotechnical field. IEC is dedicated to the harmonization and voluntary adoption of these standards, supporting the transfer of electrotechnology, assisting certification and promoting international trade.


All lasers pose potential danger of skin, organ and tissue damage as a result of extended exposure or staring into the beam. Thermal radiation due to heat generated during extended contact is also a concern.  People working with class 3B and class 4 lasers can protect their eyes with safety goggles which are designed to absorb light of a particular wavelength.

Infrared lasers with wavelengths beyond about 1.4 micrometers are often referred to as "eye-safe" because the cornea strongly absorbs light at these wavelengths, protecting the retina from damage. The label "eye-safe" can be misleading, as it only applies to relatively low power continuous wave beams.  A high power or Q-switched laser at these wavelengths can burn the cornea, causing severe eye damage, and even moderate power lasers can injure the eye.