Photobiological Risk Classification of Lamps and Lamp Systems—History and Rationale

David H. Sliney*, Rolf Bergman, John O'Hagan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Current optical radiation safety standards for lamps and lamp systems were first published in the United States in the early 1990s but were the product of dozens of meetings held during the 1970s and 1980s. The development was tortuously slow because lamp scientists and engineers contended that because almost all lamps were perfectly safe—unlike lasers, which were generally hazardous—there was no need for an optical safety standard. They pointed to the rare instances of actual, reported injuries from lamps (except for sunlamps, for which there had been safety standards). Those rare lamps, such as sunlamps and germicidal ultraviolet lamps, that posed photobiological hazards were well recognized by all, and warnings were always provided. However, occupational health and safety experts and some photobiologists, ophthalmologists, and dermatologists thought that because laser safety standards then existed, there was a need for consensus documents for lamps and lighting systems. This led to the risk group (RG) designations that would distinguish those lamps that would pose a potential risk (if only in rare cases) from those that would always be safe and therefore exempt from any requirements. This article provides the historical, scientific bases for these RGs and measurement conditions now applied to both lamps and lamp products. It also documents specific issues related to the risk assessments for specific lamp applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-234
Number of pages22
JournalLEUKOS - Journal of Illuminating Engineering Society of North America
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © Illuminating Engineering Society.


  • blue light hazard
  • infrared
  • lamp safety
  • lamps
  • photobiology
  • ultraviolet


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