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Strategies for keeping workers and visitors safe around laser equipment run the gamut from identifying hazard zones and posting warning signs to auditing equipment and hiring a full-time Laser Safety Officer (LSO). All of those efforts are enhanced when coupled with the power of a modern computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), particularly one that is hosted in the “cloud” for accessibility wherever the Internet is available.

Because a CMMS automates a host of maintenance responsibilities, it can play a role in any number of safety scenarios involving laser technology. For instance, the preventive maintenance (PM) calendar in the CMMS can be used to note the dates when a smoke evacuator system for laser equipment needs a filter change or cleaning. And the CMMS can also generate work orders (WOs) for maintaining filters based on condition monitoring – potentially eliminating explosions caused by static electricity sparking residue in clogged filters. Or, the CMMS can serve as an “internal inspector” to track state safety laws that affect laser operations.

Consider these additional options for employing CMMS technology to improve laser safety on the shop floor.

Classifying lasers, managing assets

A well-designed CMMS simplifies management of major assets by enabling shop floor personnel to create a complete profile of equipment and machinery, including: make and model, serial code, bar code, lock-out/tag-out, safety notes, images, documents and other pertinent information. That profile also tracks related PM tasks and WOs and includes site maps to pinpoint the location of assets.

Asset profiles in the CMMS also make it easy to document the specific class of a laser. Classifying lasers is the first step in setting up safety protocols, because the class of a laser determines the type of safety program required. A low-powered Class 1 laser, for example, does not trigger the same stringent precautions needed for a Class 3B or 4.

At the same time, however, Class 4 lasers could be embedded within Class 1 equipment – which may then require an LSO to manage service calls that require the laser system to be opened and exposed. The CMMS tracks all of this information on laser classifications and keeps it readily available. 

Complying with regulations

Besides knowing the classification of a laser, it is also necessary to be aware of the federal and state regulations that apply to laser operations. Federal inspectors from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), for instance, take a dim view of a facility with Class 3B or 4 lasers that does not have an LSO, and fines can result. Laser regulations also vary from state to state, making it crucial for shop floor managers to know exactly which laws apply in their locale.

A robust CMMS can centralize maintenance and safety data as well as details on regulations all in one system. This greatly helps a company pass inspections and avoid fines – and accidents.

Safety incident and audit features can be integrated with WOs and linked to specific assets in the CMMS solution. And the CMMS also provides proof of PM history in report form, sorted by asset, repair technician, safety standard or other protocols, which makes it easier to comply with audits.

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Having quick and easy access to a staff member’s level of safety training and other certifications can make it easier to assign work tasks and tackle audits.

Staff training and certifications

Laser safety training is paramount for staff members because they can experience burns – or even amputations – when working with high-powered lasers. Employee training may take place when a laser is first purchased and inspected. But a PM notice can also be set up to schedule additional employee safety training sessions or remind staffers about when they need to refresh their skills.

A CMMS can also maintain records on which employees have completed online safety courses, such as those available from the Laser Institute of America, or those who have earned particular certifications, like the Certified Laser Safety Officer (CLSO) designation offered through the Board of Laser Safety.

Having quick and easy access to information on a staff member’s level of laser safety training makes it easier to assign work tasks. Some advanced CMMSs may not allow assignments to be given to staffers who do not have certain specific qualifications through particular security roles. Usually, however, it is preferable to set up the CMMS so shop floor managers can see the data they need and make the final decisions about job assignments themselves.

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Documenting the specific class of a laser in a CMMS using asset profiles is the first step in setting up safety protocols because the class of a laser determines the type of safety program required.

Supporting safety measures

While a CMMS complements the safety measures that specifically affect laser equipment, it also strengthens those measures for the company at large. For example, when a CMMS produces WOs for regular inspections and repairs on cracked vent pipes for heating systems, the risk of fire goes down. Maintenance technicians can also be assigned the PM task of inspecting fire extinguishers on a regular basis to make sure they are in working order. And the CMMS can deliver checklists for operational procedures, reminding workers to stay sharp on safety steps instead of becoming complacent about day-to-day operations.

Because a state-of-the art CMMS can handle a myriad of details and tedious backend work, it can free shop floor managers to pay attention to the important job of creating a safe, healthy and profitable workplace.

Smartware Group Inc. 

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