Laser cutter safety

Laser cutters use a powerful laser for precise cutting and engraving. The hazards associated with a laser cutter include the possibility of fires and the generation of hazardous and/or irritating combustion products. The laser cutter high powered laser can cause damage to eyes and skin, and it must be contained within the cutter.


Laser cutters require special ventilation!  It is important to contact EHS before purchasing a laser to discuss ventilation options.


When purchasing a laser cutter be sure to purchase a unit that has “air assist”! This feature is optional and important for preventing fires (and also helps to make cleaner cuts).


Best Practices for Safe Operation

  • Before using a laser cutter be sure you have been trained by a qualified individual. A written procedure covering laser cutter use is recommended.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when operating a laser cutter.
  • Keep a log book detailing who has used the laser cutter, cutting time, and materials cut.
  • A fire extinguisher should be mounted on the wall near the laser cutter.
  • Regular vacuuming of the cutting deck and internal cavity of the laser cutter is very important for preventing fires!
  • Know what materials can be safely cut! Some materials such as PVC produce hydrogen chloride gas which is extremely dangerous. If you are unsure if your material is safe to cut, contact your EHS Coordinator or the MIT EHS Office at 617-452-3477.
  • Never leave an operating laser cutter unattended.
  • Avoid placing laser cutters on wooden surfaces.
  • Know how setting the pulse rate of the laser affects the chance of a fire and the resolution of the cut.
  • Never defeat laser interlocks built into the cutter. This could allow the beam to escape from the laser cutter.