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UV lamp safety

  1. May 17, 2014 #1
    Hi everyone :)
    I have one practical question concerning safety.
    I work in a small store where we use UV lamp to check banknotes.It has both UV A and UV C light. In the manual it says to use UV C in special cases only, because UV C is dangerous. We use UV A all the time, but i found out that using UV C reaveals security features better. I would like to use UVC to check larger notes (we got fake 200€ recently). However, Im afraid that UVC will damage my eyes. Do you think it is safe to use it like 3-4 times a day for a few seconds? I dont look at the lamp directly, it is hidden in a box and UVC reflects from the paper only.
    Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 17, 2014 #2


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    I've used UV-C lamps in my scientific work; I always wear long sleeved shirts and wear protective goggles.

    Here's what they say:

    Since the security strip is responding to the UV via florescence there should be no problem with blocking the UV-C from your eyes. Most UV is blocked by ordinary glass, so you can just rig up a small box with the UV lamp on the inside, a slot to insert the money, and a clear glass cover.

    Just make sure that that particular glass does block the UV. Many clear plastics also work.
  4. May 17, 2014 #3

    Simon Bridge

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    Welcome to PF;
    Questions concerning safety need to be handled carefully in these forums, since advise can lead to exposure to litigation. Opinions will vary, anyway, depending on how "safe" is defined.

    Short-wave UV light is harmful to humans. In addition to causing sunburn and (over time) skin cancer, this light can produce extremely painful inflammation of the cornea of the eye, which may lead to temporary or permanent vision impairment.

    UV exposure may be subject to regulation - best advise:
    consult the environmental health and safety regulations or guidelines for your business type in your jurisdiction.

    Here is an example:
    ... even where there is no formal rule involved there is usually something official.

    Certainly your employer will have a say in what sort of risks you take when you are doing your job.
    Check that there are not already guidelines on what to do in place.
  5. May 17, 2014 #4


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    I would like to echo and re-emphasize what Simon Bridge has said. You need to check with your employer, and with the instruction given by the manufacturer of the equipment, on what the safety precaution that you will need to take when using this equipment. The regulation governing the safety aspect at your workplace will depend very much on where you are in the world (you didn't mention this). The US OSHA regulation will take precedent if this is in the US.

    I want to point a caveat to what UltrafastPED has mentioned. Note that just because a piece of plastic eyewear can block the UV light, it doesn't mean that that is an approved eyewear! There are eyewear that are specifically approved as safety eyewear for such UV light source. If you are injured in some way, and there is an issue of litigation, if you do not wear an approved eyewear, even if what you wore did actually block such sources, you may still be considered as not adequately protecting your eyes.

    Safety issues and regulation are a complete different game, because it isn't just an issue of physics anymore, but also an issue of law and regulation. You take your own risk if you decide to do things without being backed by proper safety regulation and instruction. So if you want an advice here, check the safety instruction and requirement of the equipment you are using, and then check with your employer on what proper safety procedure that they have adopted. If someone later on asked you why you are doing it in such a way, you now have solid reasons to justify your actions. You do not want to be caught saying "But this person on Physics Forums said that this is OK."

  6. May 17, 2014 #5
    Thank you very much for the advice! I dont have an employer, its our family store and I am the most "technically skilled" person there so I have no one to consult this with. I also have absolutely no idea wether there are some regulations about UV exposure in small shops in the EU.
    So I guess I will not use the UV C option and will continue to use UV A only which is allowed for long-term use by the manufacturer. The box looks the same way as the first person described- the lamp is hidden in a box made of black plastic and glass lid with a small hole to insert the money. So i guess that should be pretty safe.
    Have a nice day :)
  7. May 17, 2014 #6

    Simon Bridge

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    Probably for the best.
    Family firm still has to follow regulations ... where we say "employer" above, there will be some member of the family who plays that role even if it is just to look after the firm bank account. This will be the person who is named on any potential court documents. Most jurisdictions require someone to be "in charge" at least on paper.

    Note: if your firm is using equipment contrary to the manufacturers guidelines, and you are injured or otherwise suffer damages from using the equipment, you may have harmed your ability to seek compensation from the manufacturer: even if your non-standard use is not at fault.

    If you do not know the relevant workplace practice/regs/law, probably best to follow the manufacturers guidelines - as you indicated. You will probably find that there are occupational health and safety guidelines for your workplace and practice that everyone working there should know... probably a good idea to find out if you don't.

    I know it sounds like you are getting preached at a lot here, but safety is something I like to take seriously... seeing I live in a country that routinely risks lives for fun :)

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