Laser Safety Programs and Laser Safety Officers in Med Spas: What You Need To Know

Laser Safety Programs and Laser Safety Officers in Med Spas: What You Need To Know

Upholding appropriate laser safety is essential for any med spa offering laser treatments. If you are the owner or operator of a med spa that utilizes lasers for medical, cosmetic, aesthetic or healing purposes, you must have a laser safety program in place that complies with the American National Standard for Safe Use of Lasers in Health Care Facilities (ANSIZ136.3-2018). You must also instate a Laser Safety Officer to oversee the program.

American National Standard for Safe Use of Lasers in Health Care Facilities

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) outlines the laser safety standards that med spas must integrate into their laser safety training programs. The ANSI standards inform all laser safety recommendations set by state and federal agencies.

ANSIZ136.3-2018 is considered the definitive document on laser safety protocol in healthcare settings. It is applicable for lasers that operate at wavelengths between 180nm and 1000nm on the UV, visible and IR regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. It provides specific processes and protocol for anyone who may be exposed to laser radiation and is fundamental in establishing a program that encourages the safe use of lasers in healthcare. Lasers almost never malfunction when properly used. Laser safety programs are designed to establish a protocol to ensure the safe use of lasers, and reduce the likelihood of a human error occurring.

This standard is applicable to any location where a health care laser system is used as a medical device–including med spas. The standard is intended for use by all individuals who are involved in the installation, operation, calibration, maintenance, and service of lasers.

The ANSI Z136.3-2018 laser safety standard can be purchased here. The most recent 2018 iteration of the standard reflects current best practice and focuses on:

  1. Clarifying the roles and responsibilities of the Laser Safety Officer (LSO), and other related positions such as Deputy LSO, Laser Safety Site Contact, and Laser Safety Specialist.
  2. Class 1C lasers which come in contact with the skin.
  3. Laser generated airborne contaminants (LGAC) and plume and airborne contaminants (PAC).
  4. Providing specific guidelines for third party laser rental.
  5. Control measures.

Are laser safety programs in med spas required by law?

ANSI Z136.3 is a recommended standard, not a legal requirement. However, it is instrumental in guiding federal, state, local and non-governmental agencies that are associated with lasers. Observation of the standard is enforced by non-governmental agencies such as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals Organization (JCAHO) which provides medical facility accreditation, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a governmental regulatory body which upholds work safety and can levy substantial fines against offenders.

From a financial and legal viewpoint, it is irresponsible not to uphold a certified laser safety program or have a laser safety officer in a med spa setting. Many insurance companies require evidence of laser safety training procedures and expect to see the safety program documentation. If an accident were to occur in your facility and litigation resulted, a business without an ANSI-based laser safety training program or officer would be placed in a very vulnerable position.

Laser safety is not the same as clinical treatment safety

An ANSI compliant laser safety program aims to engender a safe working environment around lasers. It is not designed to prevent patient injuries nor ensure that the laser procedure achieves the desired results.

These are clinical issues that are addressed through clinical training, licensing, quality control or a peer review program. The laser safety officer is responsible for ensuring that those who work with and around lasers are protected, and that appropriate safety protocol is followed. We’ll explore some of the responsibilities of the laser safety officer below.

The responsibilities of the laser safety officer (LSO)

In addition to a laser safety program informed by ANSI Z136.3-2018, med spas must also instate a laser safety officer (LSO). The laser safety officer may be a doctor, nurse, or technician who has specially trained in laser safety regulations and hazard controls.

It is the laser safety officer’s role to control hazards, document a written set of laser safety policies and procedures, perform a regular formal audit of the laser safety program (annually is recommended), and provide written documentation of laser safety training for any personnel who are working with or near the laser.

Some of the more specific responsibilities of the LSO may include:

  1. Determining the extent of the nominal hazard zone (NHZ): Everyone in this area must wear safety glasses.
  2. Designating the laser treatment controlled area: The laser treatment controlled area is the room where the laser is located. Signs must be posted on all entryways, and windows must be covered if the wavelength passes through glass. Only those with documented Laser Safety Training are permitted to be in the room (except for patients), and the room must be supervised by a person trained in laser safety.
  3. Undertaking hazard analysis: This includes confirming the maximum permissible exposure (MPE) for the lasers and confirming the hazard class of the lasers at the facility.
  4. Establishing controls for the facility: These include the selection of protection eyewear and equipment, the posting of warning signs, entryway controls, equipment modifications, the selection of window coverings and the enforcement of non-beam controls: virtually everything that pertains to the safe set-up, maintenance and use of laser within the med spa.
  5. Identifying and safeguarding against beam hazards: Beam hazards include any situation where laser light may come into contact with the skin or eyes of a patient or staff member in the controlled area. A regulatory protocol is established so every person in the nominal hazard zone uses protective eye glasses and protective clothing.
  6. Identifying and safeguarding against non-beam hazards: Non-beam hazards include electrical shocks, ventilation, chemical exposure, spills, and other relevant safety issues that may occur in the controlled area.
  7. Upholding administrative requirements: These include the establishment of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), record keeping, laser logs documenting when the laser was serviced, scheduling safety audits.
  8. Maintenance responsibility: Trained persons following ANSI criteria must perform all maintenance and laser servicing. Maintenance and servicing must be documented.
  9. Coordinating training and education: This ensures that all relevant personnel stay current with laser safety and appropriate use. The LSO should also raise awareness regarding any changes in state rules or ANSI laser standards.


Laser safety officers are not required to perform measurements (such as calculating maximum permissible exposure to determine hazard zones). Medical laser manufacturers must pre-classify their laser systems. LSOs follow recommended practices in line with the manufacturer’s guidelines, and the ANSI laser in healthcare standard.

Who can be a laser safety officer?

No specific experience is required for a med spa staff member to assume the role of laser safety officer; just a willingness or interest to be trained in laser safety, and commitment to uphold the responsibilities associated with the role.

The LSO is responsible for managing and administering the safety program, but they do not necessarily need to be trained in how to use the laser equipment. Med spa owners and operators should ideally have the same training and knowledge as the LSO to ensure the program is properly established.

Laser and FACE: Watch this space

In addition to our CME-accredited injectables, PRP and absorbable thread lift training courses, FACE is poised to add aesthetic laser programs to our course offerings. Our programs are distinguished by comprehensive instruction delivered by board-certified professionals, with an emphasis on safety and technique. Watch this space, and check in to the FACE website for updates!


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