As the use of optical fiber communications systems that utilize semiconductor laser transmitters increases, the laser safety aspects unique to such systems need to be examined. Laser safety standards have been in use for many years [ “ American National Standard for the Safe Use of Lasers,” American National Standards Institute Z136.1 ( ANSI, New York, 1980); American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (AGGIH), A Guide for Control of Laser Hazards ( AGGIH, Cincinnati, 1981); United Nations Environmental Program, World Health Organizations, International Radiation Protection Association, Environmental Health Criteria 23: Lasers and Optical Radiation ( World Health Organization, Geneva, 1982]. These standards usually address conventional lasers with a collimated output. In terms of the radiant energy emitted from the end of a radiating optical fiber, current laser safety standards place most systems in a potentially hazardous category, i.e., Class 3b. However, when one considers the unique aspects of a highly divergent beam and the physiological limits for close viewing, these systems appear to be considerably less hazardous than one might initially suspect. This warrants a separate dedicated standard. One organization, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z136 Committee, is addressing this issue through development of the “American National Standard for the Safe Use of Optical Fiber Communications Systems Utilizing Laser Diode and LED Sources” (ANSI Z136.2). It is shown that optically aided viewing, pupil size, and viewing durations are the critical safety issues. This paper proposes the rationale for that standard.
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