Time To Get Laser Sharp

Laser and IPL for cosmetic use in Australia has been under the spotlight since the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) called for submissions from the cosmetic medical and aesthetics industries in 2015. These were to assess standards by which operators can practise to ensure optimum client/patient safety and outcomes. The result of the inquiry is not all everyone hoped, but is a step in the right direction and puts the onus on ethical operators to lead the way. Elissa O’Keefe*, MD of Bravura Education, explains.

While laser/IPL regulations per se are not going to be national, those in place in Queensland, Tasmania and WA will continue to be enforceable.

What will happen though is there will be a release of Australian standards, possibly in the next 12 months that will be applicable to lasers in health in all contexts, not just cosmetics.

These standards will form the backbone of workplace health and safety with regard to laser and IPL and give strong direction on laser governance including, but not limited to, education, devices and safety auditing.

Furthermore, ARPANSA is currently drafting a guidance document that should complement those standards where specific requirements of the cosmetic industry with regard to laser and IPL use will be made explicit.

It is not known when this document will be released for public comment but it is not unrealistic to expect it in the next 6-12 months.

Laser and IPL safety in cosmetic practice has never been governed by an enforceable standard in Australia. This is despite such part of a cosmetic business being held to the same account re workplace health safety as sharps disposal or manual handling would be.

It has been informed instead by a number of guidance documents1 and accepted professional practices.

The most recent of these is the much-anticipated ARPANSA publication, expected to be released soon.

In this guidance document, minimum laser and IPL safety education, terminology, the import, sales, servicing and staff training for specific laser and IPL equipment, best practice for patient care and the reporting of injuries are the key elements in raising the standards of cosmetic medicine and keeping the public safe.

But the ante is about to be upped! To add to this there is now also a revision of the aged AS/NZ 4173 Lasers in health care standard in the pipeline due for release later this year and it will set the national standard not only for cosmetic practice but for hospitals and other health care facilities that use lasers too.

Therefore, managers in all healthcare facilities where a medical or surgical laser is used will need to apply the new standards, incorporate them into workplace health and safety policies, and devise procedures demonstrating compliance with the standards.

Clinic owners and managers will soon be expected to restructure their laser and IPL safety programs, policies, educational requirements, audit and QA activities, and daily operational procedures to align with these strict standards. What are some things to do to prepare?

  • If all your staff who use either laser or IPL don’t have as a minimum qualification a recent accredited laser safety certificate then it’s time to work toward them gaining one.
  • There are numerous time and cost-saving options to do this, including highly flexible online learning or face to face training. Manufacturer training is not sufficient unless it has been accompanied by an accredited laser safety certification.
  • If laser safety isn’t built into your induction program it will need to be, and an education plan and supervised practice pathway to competency made explicit.
  • Other things to do are to ensure that you have a machinery maintenance schedule, a safety audit process in place and that you have a policy for managing incidents and adverse outcomes.    

* Elissa O’Keefe RN NP FFACNP MACN is the managing director of Bravura Education, Australia’s leading educators for lasers and intense pulsed light (IPL) technologies.