Sterile processing departments (SPD) are proud to have all stainless steel clean,
shiny and disinfected on a daily basis.
The problem comes down to the laser readers used to read the tray’s labels and DataMatrix codes on surgical instruments. These class I and II laser readers can pose potential damage to the operator’s eyes if corrective measurements are not taken. The problem is not aversion; (Closure of the eyelid, eye movement, to avoid a bright light), but specular reflection:
Exposure from laser hitting a “shiny” object. This can be as hazardous as the primary beam.
For this laser class (II), the normal human aversion response of (0.25 seconds) to bright radiant sources affords eye protection if the beam is viewed directly. The potential for eye hazard exists if this normal reflex motion is overcome and the exposure time is greater than 0.25 seconds, unfortunately humans react differently with specular reflections.
Barcode readers are generally safe in industrial environments, where most of the light is absorbed by the material exposed (Carton box, wood, paper, glass, plastic etc..) but unfortunately they were mistakenly placed in the SPD environment where everything is shiny and many with mirror finishes like instruments, cabinets, sterilizers, trays etc....
There is no regulation in place for class II laser safety in a “shiny” environment. My recommendation would be using laser protection glasses and consult your EHS (Environmental Health Services) officer for further information.