Understanding the laser safety ratings

Read more about the level of protection you will need

Which level of protection will you need?

When assessing eye protection requirements for each different Laser type, Laser 2000 uses the latest software to define the necessary rating (protection level) that should be used as protection against a specific laser or laser operating condition. If you have a laser and are unsure of the level of protection that you require from your eyewear, Laser 2000 will assess the hazard using this software, free of charge.

Completing our laser safety calculation form provides us with the information we need to calculate your EN207 rating. We will return the results to you by email, along with a quotation for the appropriate safety eyewear.

Laser safety eyewear ratings take both the eyewear filters and the eyewear frames into account to provide a specific rating for each different combination of wavelength, power and temporal mode of the laser. This differs from the optical density value. It is an absolute measure of the maximum power of the beam that the eyewear can withstand, without degradation to the performance of the eyewear.

The European laser safety standards EN 207/EN208 also require that the frame also has to withstand the same level of radiation as the filters. The laser beam must be prevented from reaching the eyes from the sides and the filters should form an inseparable unit with the frame. The "weaker" part determines the protection level of the whole system for the specified wavelength and operation mode.

Understanding the laser safety eyewear rating

The LB number is the scale defined in the Standard EN 207:2009. This specifies eyewear protection against laser radiation using a glass or plastic material. The LB rating calculation defines the minimum markings required on the laser safety glasses to ensure protection from the specified laser, at the target distance selected.

There are three parts to each LB rating

The letters in front of the LB number refer to the temporal mode of the laser beam:

D refers to CW lasers or average Power Density (exposure time > 0.25s)
I refers to lasers with pulse lengths between 1 µs and 0.25s
R refers to lasers with pulse lengths between 1ns and 1µs
M refers to lasers with pulse lengths less than 1ns

Protective eyewear for repetitively pulsed lasers must satisfy the D rating as well as the I, R or M rating appropriate to its pulse length.

The second part defines the wavelength, or range of wavelengths, at which the rating is valid.

The final part of the CE rating is the LB rating itself. This integer value represents the maximum power that the eyewear filters protect against.

For example:

D 532 LB3: This eyewear delivers LB3 protection for a D type beam (continuous wave) at 532nm.

DIR 1000-1300 LB5: This eyewear delivers LB5 protection for D,I and R type beams across the wavelength range 1000-1300nm.

The value of the LB numbers increase in attenuation magnitude as factors of 10. LB2 safety spectacles have ten times the attenuation of LB1 spectacles. They will withstand 10 times the power density or energy density. The minimum Optical Density of the eyewear is equal to the LB number specified. For example, a rating of LB2 means that the OD is > 2. The maximum power or energy density that the eyewear will withstand has a more complicated relationship to the Optical Density.

The minimum LB number in EN 207 is LB1. If the power or energy density of the laser is less than 0.1 times the LB limit, the low attenuation required means you might not need safety eyewear. LB10 is the largest LB rating. If the power or energy density of the laser is greater than the LB10 limit, suitable protective eyewear will probably not be commercially available. Instead, you must adapt your engineering controls to ensure that exposure to these conditions is not possible.

To determine the LB number, the actual power / energy density of the beam is used - no limit aperture is imposed on the measurement. The beam diameter has a bearing on the LB number and is different for glass or plastic eye protectors. This is due to differences in the way that they conduct heat away from the exposure area. For this reason, the LB number for Glass or Plastic protectors can be different.

For classifying alignment eyewear, standard EN 208:2009 is used. These ratings use 'RB' in place of 'LB' before the rating integer. This should not be confused with the temporal mode notation 'R'. The RB number defines the minimum markings required on laser safety goggles to ensure attenuation of the laser beam to Class 2 levels. The largest RB number defined in EN208 is RB5. Above this, safety methods must be adapted.

Defining these ratings depends on a variety of factors. For example, direct exposure hazards are generally worse than reflection hazards and require different levels of protection. Emissions from some sources may be "safe" only when viewed in that particular optical arrangement. The introduction of additional optics could actually increase the hazard to an unsafe condition. Optical fibre delivery systems also increase the potential exposure risk to more people, whilst further complicating the assessment of the base risk itself.

Understanding the CE mark is the key to understanding the safety provided by each eyewear type. Laser 2000 only supplies laser safety eyewear that fully conforms to the requirements of CEI 825.

All laser safety calculations provided by Laser 2000 are conducted to the guidelines set out in the European standard. In preparing this information it must be stressed that Laser 2000 cannot accept any liability or responsibility for any laser safety issues or calculations as the data supplied by the customer may be inaccurate and the method of usage of either the source or eyewear may differ from that described. Your official laser safety officer should check all calculations and the buyer must satisfy themselves that the correct product specification and prices are met prior to purchasing.