Non Ionising Radiation Safety

Non-ionising radiation is so called because it is not energetic enough to ionise atoms in the matter it interacts with. Non-ionising electromagnetic radiation (NIEMR) is the term used to describe the part of the electromagnetic spectrum covering two main regions, optical radiation (ultraviolet (UV), visible and infrared) and electromagnetic fields (EMFs) (electrical power frequencies, microwaves and radiofrequencies). Many industrial processes generate NIEMR, but more commonly known sources include the sun and sunbeds, lasers, electrical equipment, telecommunications and electricity supply. Over exposure to NIEMR can cause a variety of ill-health effects.

The common injuries caused when people are over exposed to non ionising radiation are burns to the skin and eyes and risk assessments must be carried out in the case where people are exposed to radiation sufficiently strong or for sufficiently long to induce injury. In the following I will cover some details on laser safety however please get in contact with the Radiation Protection Officer in the event that you are working with potential hazardous non ionising radiation that is not from lasers

Laser Safety

Moderate and high-power lasers are potentially hazardous because they can seriously damage the retina of your eye, or even your skin. The primary piece of legislation governing Health and Safety at work in Ireland is the Safety, Health, and Welfare at Work Act 2005 . This act governs the duties and responsibilities of employers and employees in the workplace and applies to all employers and employees, self-employed or otherwise. From this act there is a legal requirement to identify the risks and take appropriate actions to control and eliminate those risks both optical and non-optical. Within the EU a directive was published in April 2006 underthe title EU Directive 2006/25/EC (Ref 114): detailing the minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to risks arising from artificial optical radiation. This Directive covers all artificial sources of optical radiation within the work environment, not just lasers. In 2010, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, transposed into Irish law the Directive 2006/25/EC with the regulation Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application)(Amendment)Regulations 2010 (Artificial Optical Radiation) (S.I. 176 of 2010). These new regulations amended the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations of 2007 (S.I. 299 of 2007). The Regulations set out requirements relating to the control of the exposure of employees to artificial optical radiation at work, including Exposure Limit Values (ELVs), determination of exposure and assessment of risks, provisions aimed at avoiding or reducing exposure, employee information and training and health surveillance.


To protect personnel and to fulfil the legal obligation the University must identify risks and take appropriate actions to eliminate or control these risks both optical and non-optical ensuring that work with lasers is carried out safely. To this end the four lines of defense are implemented; removal/substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls and personal protection.


For more detail on laser safety and managing laser hazards please see the UCC Laser Safety Guidelines

Laser safety course

The laser safety course is offered through the Radiation Protection Office at least twice yearly in person during September/October and February/March. The course has about 4 hours of lectures covering:

  • What are lasers and what's special about laser radiation?
  • Types of injuries one can obtain from lasers,
  • The laser classification system (Class I,IM,II,IIM,IIIR,IIIB,IV),
  • Laser safety controls and methods of mitigating hazards,
  • Risk Assessment and Standard Operating Procedures,
  • International standards in laser safety
  • Calculating and finding the relevant safety parameters such as
    • Maximum Permissible Exposure (MPE)
    • Accessible Emission Limits (AEL)
    • Nominal Ocular Hazard Distance (NOHD)

Upon conclusion of the course there is a test and internal certification. Contact the Radiation Protection Office to register interest in the course.

Registration of Personnel and Equipment

All users of higher powered lasers (Class IIIR and above) and the laser systems themselves should be registered with the Radiation Protection office. Higher powered lasers have a much higher chance of causing injuries to users and require more stringent controls to ensure the safety of all users and research groups. The relevant Laser Safety Forms, inventory lists and risk assessment templates can be found using the link above, please contact the R.P.O. for any addtional information or assistance.


Radiation Protection Office

An Oifig um Chosaint Radaíochta

Kane Building 1.16B, University College Cork, College Road, Cork