Monday, July 24, 2006

Blind spot?

"Experts are the most dangerous" - at least that was what I was told during my 3-day laser safety course with the Laser Institute of America. I was made to take the safety course before I started teaching Laser Technology to High School students at the Columbia Career Centre, Missouri in 1998.

I was reminded uncomfortably of this saying during one evening's entertainment at the Display Holography Symposium. An eminent scientist whom I had the greatest respect for, was showing off a new purchase - a 20mW green laser pointer - to the group of impressed holographers surrounding him. He was aiming his laser at distant trees in the garden of the castle where we were for the evening. Having had to apply recently for permission to do an outdoor beam show, I knew what damage a laser could do to a plane - or rather it's pilot, so I was concerned in case he missed the trees and went off into the sky, so asked him politely not to aim the pointer upwards. He ignored me and continued showing the laser off. I was furious.

The incident reminded me that many holographers I know either don't know, or don't care, about laser safety. After a Master's degree at the Royal College, I didn't know that a 5mW laser can give you a blind spot in a shorter time than you can blink and that you should use laser safety glasses.

Well, I'm sure that most holographers would scoff at that point - and I will hear loud protestations about my suggestion to wear glasses. (I know that they are expensive, but it is possible to use glasses with an optical density that allows you to still be able to see the beam!). Ok, I would yield to the arguement that it's a pain to have to wear the glasses - except for the fact that I've had a beam in the eye - (it was frightening) - and I know one of my previous employers has been hit in the eye a number of times and has two blind spots.

So big deal - we've all naturally got blind spots haven't we? But, a laser beam in the eye from a low powered laser can lose you up to two lines of visual accuity when doing those eye tests, reading off the lines - after being hit.

So, I would like to know - if you would want to argue with me about laser safety issues and say that I'm over-zealous. Have you been hit?

I think that it is almost impossible to re-train someone once they have established their bad habits - I have far too many. At least now I take my watch off whenever I go to turn a laser on - without even thinking about it. But I know that when I'm teaching or acting as a role model I am building habits that will last a lifetime.
That cartoon isn't so funny really, is it?

Please check out Rockwell Laser Industries for more info on the safe use of lasers.


Post a Comment

<< Home