What do the different classifications of lasers mean?

Four major laser classes (I to IV), including three subclasses (IIa, IIIa and IIIb), of lasers--ranging from those that pose no known hazard to those that pose serious danger if used improperly. The higher the class, the more powerful the laser is.

(Note: This is the old system, ANSI Z136.1)

Class I

Laser usually contained within the product and considered non- hazardous.

  • Laser printers 
  • CD players 
  • DVD players

Class II, IIa

Visible laser or laser system that cannot cause eye damage unless viewed directly for an extended period of time, or with magnifiers, binoculars, or telescopes.

  • Bar code scanners

Class IIIa, IIIb

Laser that normally does not present a risk of injury if viewed momentarily with an unaided eye, but may present a greater risk if viewed using magnifiers, binoculars, or telescopes. Laser can cause eye damage if viewed directly

  • Laser pointers
  • Laser light shows 
  • Industrial lasers 
  • Research lasers

Class IV

Laser may cause severe eye injury with short duration exposure to the direct or reflected beam. May also cause severe skin damage and present a fire hazard.

  • Laser light shows 
  • Industrial lasers 
  • Research lasers
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