It’s not unusual to occasionally get sunlight in your eyes when it reflects off a window, or to catch its glint off something shiny. While completely harmless, if such an occurrence happened with a powerful laser beam, eye damage or blindness may result. One moment, you’re fine. The next, you’re on your way to the hospital.
Lasers give few warnings or clues about their danger. You only know about it after the fact, when you happen to look in the wrong direction. This kind of accident has happened to many workers, technicians, researchers, and even scientists. However, accidents like this need not ever happen if people took a few moments to put on their laser safety glasses.
Looking Into the Beam
When working with a powerful laser, no one would deliberately look straight into its beam. However, it can happen, especially with invisible lasers that put out an ultraviolet or infrared beam. This occurs in laboratories where the worker sets up an experiment using a laser and fails to track and block the beam after it has gone through its optics. This might happen because of inexperience or a distraction. When the person or another lab worker returns to the experimental setup, his eye might accidentally catch the errant laser beam.
This is a very common accident. A hobbyist using a powerful laser might accidentally aim the beam at a reflective object such as a piece of glass or metal and get blinded by the reflection. A lab technician might accidentally reflect laser light into another’s eye because of a shiny piece of personal jewelry that got into the laser beam path.
Looking at the spot or dot of light produced by a laser beam when it strikes an object that isn’t a mirror or something shiny, can also cause eye damage. This might be a piece of wood or a concrete wall. This means that looking at anything that’s targeted by a powerful laser will injure your eyes.
These examples should make it clear how dangerous powerful lasers are, and why you must always wear laser safety glasses when you, or someone with you, is using one of these devices.
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