FACT-19 - Safety and Health Fact Sheet No. 19 1998 American...

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Safety and Health Fact Sheet No. 19 © 1998 American Welding Society March 1998 INTRODUCTION A laser is a device which produces an intense, coherent, directional beam of light. The term LASER is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Lasers can be designed to deliver a large amount of energy to a very small area. In weld- ing and cutting operations, this energy can heat metals quickly to very high temperatures. Much of the radiation that strikes the workpiece is reflected into the environment, creat- ing hazards. Some laser light used in laser welding equipment is invisible, so the hazard may not be readily apparent. HOW LASERS WORK Typical lasers use electricity to create the unique coherent light that is very different from ordinary non-coherent light, such as that from a light bulb. Coherent light can be tightly focused and is not diffused or scattered like ordinary light. This coherent light beam is parallel and can be focused to cut or weld metals. Laser light can be different colors of the visible light spectrum, or can be invisible when the light is ultraviolet or infrared. Lasers used for welding and cutting may be infrared, and therefore the beam may be invisible. It is very difficult to take precautions against things one cannot see. It is even more difficult to convince others to take precautions against hazards they cannot see and may not understand. POTENTIAL HAZARDS RADIATION—Both visible and invisible light radiation are produced when welding or cutting. Due to the interaction with the workpiece, high levels of hazardous blue light and ultraviolet radiation (secondary radiation) are produced. This light radiation is
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FACT-19 - Safety and Health Fact Sheet No. 19 1998 American...

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