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The type of laser which has found the greatest use in the construction industry has been the helium-neon (He-Ne) gas laser. Its beam has been used to project a reference line for construction equipment in such operations as dredging, tunneling, pipe laying, fine grading, ceiling tile grid installation, marine construction, etc. A few hazard controls to observe when using lasers:
1. Personnel who work with laser units should be aware of the potential eye hazards and importance of limiting unnecessary exposure.
2. A warning sign should be attached to the laser equipment in a conspicuous location indicating the potential eye hazards associated with the laser and warning against looking into the primary beam.
3. The binoculars of aiming telescopes should not be used to view the direct beam unless the beam intensities are greatly below safe levels.
4. The use of corner cube retro-reflectors should be avoided at close ranges if the reflected beam is to be observed.
5. During the alignment and set up procedures, care should be taken to avoid aiming the laser into potentially occupied areas.
6. Stable mounts for the laser are important so that it can be readily controlled.
7. Lasers should never be left unattended during operation. Beam shutter or caps should be utilized, or the laser turned off when laser transmission is not actually required.
Despite the potential hazards, the laser beam can be used safely if the proper procedures and all necessary precautions are followed. No employees other than highly trained persons should be permitted to work in an area where they could come in direct contact with the laser beam.
The guidelines here should be applied only to the small He-Ne lasers and are not by any means complete. Always check the manufacturer's instructions, precautions, and guidelines for each particular unit. When in doubt, ask your supervisor.
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