Laser Safety

Policy Summary

Each department that acquires or operates lasers for use in laboratories or research is responsible for reporting laser acquisition to the Office of Laboratory Safety, selecting a departmental deputy laser safety officer, mandating training for its laser operators in operational and safety practices, and for following the GW guidelines and requirements.  If improperly used or controlled, lasers can produce multiple injuries, including burns, blindness, and electrocution. This policy and related procedures were developed to provide safety and training. 

Related Regulations

Who is Governed by this Policy

  • Students
  • Staff
  • Faculty


This policy applies to lasers used in laboratories or research. Departments that acquire or operate such lasers are responsible for following the guidelines and procedures for laser use and safety set forth in this policy and in the Laser Safety Manual. The Office of Laboratory Safety will provide a knowledgeable laser safety officer to oversee the university’s Laser Safety Program. 

An individual who willfully or negligently violates this policy, federal, or state rules and regulations governing the use of lasers may have his/her approval use suspended or revoked by the Office of Lab Safety Manager pending review by the Associate Vice Provost for Research Integrity. 

Reporting Acquisition of Lasers 

All classes of lasers acquired by departments must be reported in writing to the Office of Laboratory Safety. The written notice shall include the manufacturer, laser class, room and building where the laser will be used, and the party responsible for the laser. This can be done using the GW Laser Safety Inventory Form.  

Appointment of Deputy Laser Safety Officer 

Each department that operates lasers must select a deputy laser safety officer (DLSO) who is responsible for the safe operation of all lasers under their control. The DLSO will be the primary contact between the Office of Laboratory Safety and the respective department.  The DLSO shall be responsible for notifying the Office of Laboratory Safety within 24 hours of any accident involving a laser. Lasers involved in an accident must be taken out of service immediately. Any DLSO changes must be reported to the Office of Laboratory Safety within 24 hours. 

Mandatory Training for Laser Operators 

Individual users of lasers must be adequately trained and demonstrate full understanding of the safety practices outlined in the university’s Laser Safety Manual, which was developed to provide safety and training information to faculty, staff and students who work with or in proximity to lasers. Equipment, information, and training for students will be administered by individual academic departments or by the Office of Laboratory Safety depending on laser class. Detailed safety guidelines and procedures are set forth on the Office of Laboratory Safety web site and in the Laser Safety Manual, and are taken from the “Guide for the Safe Use of Lasers” (ANSI Z136.1 – 2007), published by the American National Standards Institute.  


Laser - A device that emits electromagnetic radiation (usually in the UV, visible, or infrared spectra) in a concentrated beam that is monochromatic, spatially coherent, and has a narrow divergence.  


All procedures can be found on the Office of Laboratory Safety website and in the GW Laser Safety Manual. 



Contact Phone Number Email Address
Laboratory Safety 202-994-8258  [email protected]


Responsible University Official: Vice Provost for Research
Responsible Office: Office of the Vice Provost for Research

Noncompliance with this policy can be reported through this website.