The popular image of lasers has been driven by the media industry since the 1930s when the concept of 'ray weaponry' first launched itself into the cinemas. But it was not until 1960 that Theodore Maiman provided the first successful practical demonstration of the laser at Hughes Research Laboratories.
The development of the laser continued and commercial products started appearing in 1965. Lasers were first used in military applications and research but nowadays you can find them in industry, medicine, the office and in the home. The size of lasers range from the microscopic to the massive and the applications are very diverse.
As lasers became tools to be used by people who may not be laser specialists, it was important to have some way of indicating the laser beam hazard to the user. This resulted in the laser classification scheme. Although there is currently no specific legislation covering laser safety, British Standard BS EN 60825-1, which is essentially a manufacturing standard for laser products, does support laser safety and sets out the classification scheme. The Standard has other parts in the 60825 series that cover specific applications and provide guidance to users.