How to use Lasers Safely
In any construction job, from fitting picture rails, putting up bookshelves, or installing complex plumbing, I want to make sure the job I am doing is 100 percent on level.
That way, my clients won’t ever need to adjust the job again for being wonky. For this reason, a Laser Level is an essential part of my toolkit. Laser Levels project a constant level of light onto a horizontal or vertical plane, helping me complete each new job to perfection.
But what kind of laser-levels should you buy? And are they safe for you and your pets?
This article will hopefully guide you towards making the best laser level purchase for your construction business or DIY job and will give you the best possible advice for protecting yourself and your pets whilst working with these tools.
Here’s a more in-depth article about how to choose a laser level if you’re new to these tools!
Type of Laser Levels and how they work
The kind of Laser level you want to be purchasing is dependent on the type of job you’re completing. If you’re doing a small inside job, from ensuring newly installed sockets to line-up with existing sockets, ensuring piping is plumb (vertical) or making sure your bookshelf is flat, you want to buy a Line Laser.
These lasers are the most common you will see on worksites and the simplest to use, simply attach them onto a wall, or place them on a tripod, and point them in the right direction.
1. Point Laser Level
For example, if you want to make sure your pipes are precisely vertical, place a line laser level on the ground and point it upwards. If you want to make sure your shelving brackets are aligned, point the line laser horizontally and install them where the line is (or leave pencil marks for later).
Line Lasers are very simple to use and are a good tool for you to have if you are only occasionally doing DIY/ installation jobs.
Obviously, for many Line Lasers, you will need to purchase one alongside a tripod for elevation, for example, if you are installing a chair-rail you want to have your lines/ leave your markings about 36 inches above floor level.
If you’re working outside, for example ensuring your garden digging or patio installation is level, a Line Laser may be difficult to see against the sunlight and so you will need to get a Line Laser Level Detector to help you read the line properly.
2. Spot Laser Level
Very similar to Line Lasers are Spot Lasers. These are also very simple to use, but unlike Line Lasers, they only project spots onto the surface you are aiming them at.
Accuracy in initial placement is key, and again a tripod for height will be useful, Spot Lasers are more commonly used for placing objects on different walls, for example, pictures, as well as ensuring pipes moving from one room to the other are plumb (vertical).
A spot is also easier to see outdoors than an entire line, so you may find this laser good for outdoor uses.
3. Combination Laser Levels (Lines & Dots)
The third kind of Laser Level are combination Lasers used in more complex jobs. These will project both lines and spots onto a surface and will help you switch between doing different jobs without changing tools.
Plumbers and electricians find combination lasers very helpful for installing pipes, lighting, or electrical wires. For small jobs, this combination may be surplus to surplus to requirements.
4. Rotary Laser Levels
A fourth kind of Laser Levels used in more complex jobs are Rotary Lasers. Using mirrors, these lasers project multiple lines at perpendicular angles, giving you a constant line around an enclosed space.
So, unlike using a Spot laser, where multiple adjustments may be needed and you could make a mistake, this, more complex laser, will give you accuracy and precision after just one placement.
This could help you with skirting, door installation, window installation, and much much more. A tripod for this kind of Laser Level is essential, and since the lasers will be pointing in all directions, protective gear may be needed too.
With all these tools, accurate placement is key. Tripods will be helpful for gaining elevation, and also stopping small children/pets from staring directly into the lasers.
So, we finally get onto the most important question, are these tools safe?
The answer is of course yes, otherwise, why would construction professionals and DIY professionals use them? However, there are moderate dangers which, with the use of protective equipment, can be resolved.
Danger to your eyes: Can laser levels damage your eyes?
If you are using a rotary laser, avoiding indirect eye contact with the laser may be difficult since it is pointing in multiple directions. The extent of the damage is dependent on the class of the laser, looking indirectly at a class 1 or 2 laser will not damage your eyes unless exposure is prolonged.
Most construction laser levels fall within these categories. If you have a class 3 or 4 laser, looking into it even for a few seconds will cause its light to refract through your eye and burn your cornea. This could have the following consequences.
Blurred vision, or easily irritated by lights.
- Color-blindness: Especially difficulty telling the difference between blue and green
- Loss of vision or outright blindness in extreme cases.
If you are working with Level Lasers for a long time, even lower-level ones, it is better to be safe than sorry. You should wear laser protective glasses, of which many cheap for purchase can be found here.
It is essential to know the Laser Class of your product and inform those who work with you if applicable so they can take suitable safety measures. The laser class of your tools should always be listed in the product description.
Cancer dangers? Can laser levels cause cancer?
Laser radiation, even from complex construction tools, is minimal and laser radiation is not harmful and certainly cannot cause cancer. Prolonged exposure onto your skin could cause burns, so it is best practice to wear long sleeve shirts and work trousers, rather than a tank-top and shorts when working with intensive lasers for a prolonged period of time.
Does laser light hurt cats or other pets?
Of course, you will always act safely around lasers, but your pets may not be so smart. Their eyes and skin are just as vulnerable as yours, it is entirely possible, though it has not been investigated, that they may be more sensitive.
If you have had to bring the pet to the construction site, or you are doing some DIY around the house, it is important to keep your animal-safe. It is best to try and keep the pet outdoors if you are working indoors, or vice-versa, or keep the pet in another room.
Interestingly, if you want to have some fun during break time with the laser pointer, and play this classic game with your cat, you should not play this game with a dog as it can cause behavioral problems. (1)
Final Safety Tips: How to protect yourself when using laser levels?
- Do not use a more powerful laser than you need. A Class 3B or 4 lasers should never be used on a construction site.
- Never look directly into a Laser beam.
- Use a Line laser level Detector in sunny conditions rather than increasing the power
- Know the Laser Classification of your product (from class 1 to class 4) and always assume the laser is slightly more powerful than advertised.
- Wear protective glasses and cover your skin with clothing.
- Play the Laser game with your cat, not with your dog. Do not ever point the laser directly into the eye of your pet. When working, keep the pets away as prolonged exposure can be dangerous for them.
- Turn the laser off when it is not in use.
- Do not use the laser near flammable or combustible liquids or dust as even a low-level laser could cause explosions.
- Keep children and pets away from your worksite.
- If you need to repair the laser, seek professional help. Opening the unit and trying to fix it yourself is very dangerous.
- Regardless of how many of the above measures you take, never be complacent.
Work safely and work effectively. Happy building!