Don’t Get Burned When Laser Laws Change

Impending changes to regulations governing the use of laser and IPL aesthetic devices could mean big changes to the way you do business. Be prepared so you don’t find yourself in hot water —or out in the cold—when changes come.

The “elasticity” of regulation governing laser and IPL has been of deep concern to the medical community for many years.

But the landscape could soon radically change. Earlier this year, The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) invited submissions on: The Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) to cover the use of Intense Pulsed Light sources (IPLs) and Lasers for Cosmetic or Beauty Therapy.

Submissions closed at the end of July and are now being deliberated.

The aim of ARPANSA’s National Directory for Radiation Protection (NDRP) is to provide nationally uniform requirements together with clear regulatory statements.

In essence, it aims to professionalise the use of these devices on all levels; that operators must have the requisite education, training and insurance.

It is certain that regulations will become much more stringent – and enforced – thereby taking the untrained, ignorant or unethical out of the equation.

Therefore it is vital for you, as a salon, spa or clinic owner using these devices that you and your clinicians/therapists are operating them within existing guidelines, that you are using the right devices, and ensure that you/they have the appropriate qualifications and training.

“The industry itself has long requested that regulations be improved as there have been many injuries as a result of poor diagnosis of conditions or incorrect use of lasers and IPLs due to poor training,” says Brisbane cosmetic physician Dr Mary Dingley, who has been involved in developing the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgeons (ACCS) laser safety initiative.

Dr Mary Dingley
Dr Mary Dingley

“Existing regulations vary from state to state, from virtually nothing in states such as NSW, through to only doctors being able to use lasers in Western Australia. Tasmania is the only state with some regulation of IPL use.”

Adds Dr Cath Porter, Sydney cosmetic physician and spokesperson for the Cosmetic Physicians College of Australasia (CPCA): “The current lack of light device operator regulations and standards means that anyone can buy a laser and/or IPL device and set themselves up without requiring training or insurance. This situation really puts individuals at risk.”

Another major issue is that laser and IPL can potentially remove or mask unrecognised or undiagnosed symptoms of melanoma or non-melanoma skin cancers.

“[Use of laser or IPL without a prior skin cancer check] could have serious consequences,” according to ARPANSA’s Radiation Health Committee (RHC) Working Group.

The working group conducted a voluntary, anonymous survey from November to December 2012, of registered health practitioners and non-medical practitioners seeking data on accidents/incidents caused by the use of lasers and IPLs.

Responses by medical practitioners showed that there were 62 cases in a 12-month period in which a diagnosis of skin cancer was missed or delayed because a pigmented lesion was incorrectly treated with an IPL or laser.

Gold Coast cosmetic surgeon Dr John Flynn, Chief Censor of the ACCS, says: “This is a risk not only when an operator may be targeting pigmentation in its various forms but can also occur when a lesion is obscured by hair or a tattoo. Somewhere in the chain there needs to be medical input.”

Elissa O’Keefe, RN consultant to the ACCS, says the new regulations may mean the mandatory completion of an accredited laser and IPL safety qualification for all operators as a minimum standard.

“Salons, spas and clinics using this technology who have no doctor and/or nurse involved in their business should consider formalised collaborative arrangements with a registered health professional with laser and IPL qualifications to assist when a referral is required for clients with needs beyond their capabilities and where advice and support is sought for a complication.”

Dr Cath Porter
Dr Cath Porter

Drs Dingley and Porter stress how important it is that you are using technology from a reputable source — indeed, is legal — and appropriate to your level of training.

First and foremost this is to ensure your clients’ safety but using the wrong equipment could also be ruinous for your business.

Dangerous lasers imported direct from China are being blamed for a surge in severe burns and scarring among tattoo removal clients.

Queensland Health launched raids earlier this year to seize lasers and business records from operators using equipment they were not qualified to operate.

Some were reportedly unlabelled or labelled as Class 3, which do not require permits to operate. But some seized were identified as Class 4 that, under Queensland law, require a licence.

“The best way to ensure that you buy a machine which is not compromised in such a way is to buy from a reputable distributor and realise that cheapest is not necessarily best,” says Dr Dingley.

Says Dr Porter: “In addition to this, the devices themselves should be licensed and regularly checked, calibrated and maintained.”

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