Permanent Eye Damage
The unprotected eye is extremely sensitive to lasers. In fact, radiation from direct or reflected laser beams can permanently damage eyes. Because a laser’s beam is concentrated and narrow, the damage happens quickly too.
Laser pointers, pens, and key rings of 5 milliwatts (mW) or less are not an eye safety issue. The potential for eye injury comes as a laser’s power increases to where even an accidental hit at close range can cause retinal damage.
“Lasers that emit more than 5 mw output power can cause irreversible eye injury.” (Don’t Aim Laser Pointers at Person’s Head and Eyes)
While injuries from lasers are rare, they are usually permanent. They also happen quickly because a laser’s pulse is so fast. The type of damage depends on a variety of factors, including the power of the laser and if the beam is direct or reflected.
Laser Safety Glasses
Laser Safety Glasses protect eyes from laser light used in medical, military, research, education and many industrial applications. Lasers operate at a variety of wavelengths and powers. Each laser requires a specific lens/filter in eyewear to sufficiently protect eyes.
Take the time to review the Laser Hazards information provided by OSHA, which includes information on ANSI and other standards regarding lasers. Once you know the type of lens/filter you need, proceed to choose the best laser safety glasses for your situation.
Remember, lasers can still damage the eyes of those not working directly with them. Even reflected radiation quickly causes irreversible damage. For this reason, always wear laser safety glasses in any situation with any chance of exposure.