Ultraviolet Radiation Safety

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a form of non-ionizing radiation that is commonly used in overhead germicidal lamps, biological safety cabinets, light boxes, transilluminators, lasers, and crosslinkers. UV radiation is just outside of the visible range, between 180 and 400 nanometers on the electromagnetic spectrum, making it a mostly invisible hazard. Exposure is not immediately felt and a user may only be aware of the hazard after the damage has already been done.

The World Health Organization divides UV radiation into three regions:

Wavelength (nm)


Hazard Potential

Potential Effects of High Exposure







Mid to High

Skin or eye burns, increased risk of skin cancer




Skin or eye burns

Questions regarding UV radiation safety should be directed towards Environmental Health and Safety at 785-532-5856.

Safety Practices

Never allow unprotected skin or eyes to be exposed to laboratory UV radiation sources. Damage can occur within seconds. Make sure shields and interlocks are in place and operational when using transilluminators and crosslinkers. When working around a biological safety cabinet check that the UV light is off or the sash is closed. The UV light in biological safety cabinets must be off anytime the room is occupied unless the sash is closed. Labs that use UV radiation sources are responsible for training their personnel on safe ways to work around the equipment and how to minimize exposure to UV radiation.

Warning signs should be posted where UV radiation exposure may occur, either on the door to a room with UV lamps or on equipment containing a source of UV radiation. These labels should convey that there is a UV hazard present and protection and/or shielding must be used to protect the skin and eyes.

As UV lamps often get very hot, care must be taken to ensure that they are installed properly enabling proper cooling and airflow. This must be fail-safe and in such a way that solvent vapors cannot reach the lamp.

UV Personal Protection Equipment

All skin must be covered by protective apparel including arms, hands, face, and neck when there is the potential for exposure to laboratory UV radiation sources. Take care to ensure that standard laboratory clothing is worn including long pants, closed toe shoes, and a fully buttoned lab coat. Gloves are to be worn to protect the hands. Make sure there are not any gaps in coverage especially in the neck and wrist areas. Continually check while working to see if any gaps have developed.

Regular prescription eyeglasses may not block UV radiation and are not appropriate protection. Googles and face shields must be worn when there is potential for UV radiation exposure to the face and eyes. These must be stamped as conforming with ANSI Z87.1 and providing UV protection which is shown by a UV or U[#] marking.