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Working Safely with Optical Radiation

Optical radiation may endanger the skin and eyes of employees

Optical radiation includes the ultraviolet (UV), visible (VIS light), and infrared (IR) wavelength ranges of the electromagnetic spectrum. People working with this radiation may endanger their health. The BAuA searches for ways of avoiding this.

Along with the sun as the natural radiation source, there are numerous artificial sources emitting optical radiation in today's world of work. In this, a differentiation must be made between coherent radiation of a laser and incoherent radiation of LEDs, lamps, or spotlights, but also from plasma light arcs, for example. The commercial use of optical radiation covers the range of material processing, e.g. using lasers, via stage machinery through to the medical use, such as the removal of tattoos. However, the targeted use of optical radiation is common in the private area as well. The use of laser pointers during speeches is only one of many examples.

Wavelength range of optical radiation in the electromagnetic spectrum Wavelength range of optical radiation in the electromagnetic spectrum

However, this non-ionising radiation may endanger the skin and the eyes. A differentiation is being made between acute damage, such as sunburn or photo-keratitis, and long-term damage, such as skin cancer and cataract.

The Ordinance on Industrial Health and Safety regarding Artificial Optical Radiation (OStrV) forms the statutory framework for optical radiation. It was implemented nationally in 2010 from the European Directive on Artificial Optical Radiation (2006/25/EC)

BAuA develops methods for profound risk assessment

The objective of the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) is, among others, a safe design of working conditions where optical radiation is being used or where this radiation occurs as an undesired by-product. In order to allow for a profound risk assessment of such workstations, the BAuA does not only manage the know-how, but performs its own R&D projects or awards these to third parties.

The transfer of newly gained findings to the public is manifold. In this, publishing research reports is a part as is the establishing of rules. The distribution of the research results may cover a correspondingly large area:

  • new-creation and implementation of national and European regulations and provisions
  • development of guidelines and information for employers and employees
  • information for manufacturers regarding the development of safe and health-compliantly designed products
  • help for market surveillance agencies