Laser and radiation safety

Laser safety

Lasers are capable of producing intense beams of coherent radiation at optical, ultra violet and infra-red wavelengths.  While lasers vary greatly in power output, wavelength and purpose, the hazard potential of the types used for research purposes can be significant.

Laser radiation can be extremely hazardous to the eyes and the skin and a number of cases of serious injury, including loss of sight, have been documented. As a result, a number of international and Australian standards which set out requirements for laser safety have been published or revised in recent years.

The Laser Safety Standard (PDF, 204.5 KB) provides advice on the hazard control and administrative measures needed to implement these laser safety standards in the University.

Radiation

Safety in relation to sources of radiation is regulated by the Radiation Act 2005 (Vic). The Act is administered by the Department of Health.  (Radiation was previously governed by the similar provisions of the Health Act 1958 (Vic).)

Radiation safety at the University is managed by the Office of Research Integrity in Research Services Division. Information on radiation safety and the University's Radiation Management Plan can be obtained from the Radiation Safety website.

Magnetic fields and non-ionising radiation

Magnetic fields

What is radiofrequency electromagnetic energy?

Radiofrequency electromagnetic energy (RF EME) is also known as electromagnetic radiation (EMR). Radiofrequency EME is made up of waves of electric and magnetic energy moving together through space. We are exposed to radiofrequency fields every day both from natural and artificial sources. The sun is the main natural source of exposure. Artificial sources include AM radio signals and television broadcast signals, with only a very small contribution from phone towers. Radiofrequency sources in the home include mobile telephones, microwave ovens, televisions, radios, remote controls and videos.

What are the Australian exposure standards?

The exposure standard is set by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA). Australian exposure limits are based on scientific research data and are designed to protect against all known adverse effects and to prevent unwanted nuisance effects (physical effects that have no long-term health implications). There are both occupational and public exposure limits set. The occupational limits apply specifically to people who work with radiofrequency equipment. The public limits take into account the possibility that a person might be exposed 24 hours per day.

What are the health effects of Radiofrequency electromagnetic energy exposure?

Exposure to sufficiently high levels of EME can heat biological tissue and potentially cause tissue damage. Studies have shown that levels of EME normally encountered by the public are well below the levels needed to cause tissue damage.

At low levels of exposure to EME, the evidence for production of harmful biological effects is ambiguous and unproven. While there have been studies reporting biological effects at low levels, there has been no indication that these effects might represent a human health hazard.

Radiofrequency EME is quite different to ionising radiation, such as X-rays, which can produce molecular changes that can lead to damage in biological tissue.

What is Deakin doing to ensure that the mobile phone towers located on Deakin premises are not harmful to my health?

Deakin has mobile phone towers and other transmitting equipment on or adjacent to all campuses.

As a precautionary measure the radiofrequency field strengths have been surveyed on every campus. The survey included the interior of buildings and on the various levels of multi-storey buildings. Nearly 400 locations were measured. The full survey report details for each Campus are available for staff to read:

Radiofrequency EME exposure levels at all Deakin campuses were well below the public limit specified in the ARPANSA standard with the highest measurement of 0.32% of the public limit recorded on the Melbourne Campus at Burwood.

The University is satisfied that the presence of mobile phone towers and other transmitters on our campuses do not present any health risk to our staff or students. The University will continue to monitor any potential risks associated with mobile phone towers.

Further details can be obtained by contacting the Health, Wellbeing and Safety unit in Human Resources Division (Geelong 72869, Melbourne 68175).

(Source information from ARPANSA and the Australian Communications Authority)

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