Ultraviolet light (UV) - safe work guidelines

UV light is a type of electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength (180-400 nm), comprised of UVA, UVB, and UVC bands.  UV light levels emitted from equipment can exceed natural UV levels.

Potential hazards

  • UV exposure is not immediately felt.
  • Damage can occur from only a few seconds of exposure.
  • Eyes and skin are most at risk for damage.  There is a cumulative risk of harm.
  • Risks to the eyes include:  photokeratitis, cataracts, pterygium, cancer, and age-related macular degeneration.
  • Risks to skin include:  erythema, premature skin ageing, and skin cancer.

Equipment examples

  • Biological Safety Cabinet
  • Crosslinker
  • Fluorescence Detector
  • Fluorometer
  • HPLC Machines
  • Transilluminator
  • Spectrometer
  • UV Microscope
  • UV-Vis Detector
  • Xenon lamp
  • Arc lamp

Controlling exposure

The following safety controls are to be implemented where appropriate; based on the type of equipment, work location, and risk of exposure to persons from UV emitting devices. 


  • Reduce exposure risk by locating equipment in a separate room and using UV-absorbing shields.
  • Interlocks - opt for equipment that prevents operation when safety may be compromised.
  • Eliminate reflective surfaces by covering area with non-UV-reflecting material.
  • Close sash hoods completely when using UV lights in biological safety cabinets.


  • Individuals are to be trained by their supervisors on the risks of UV light exposure and the safe operation of the UV light emitting equipment.
  • Warning Signs – all locations where an individual entering the area may be exposed to UV light, shall be labelled with a warning sign e.g. “UV HAZARD - PROTECT EYES AND SKIN”

Personal protection

  • Wear lab coat and long pants.
  • Nitrile gloves are recommended, but consider all hazards when selecting gloves.
  • Glasses should wrap around and be ANSI-Z87 rated.
  • A face shield is preferred as it protects more skin area.