By Ken Barat, CLSO
"An explanation of being certified: A certification is a designation earned by a person, as
opposed to a job title." Ken Barat LLNL.
Certification of persons indicates that the individual has specific knowledge, skills, or
abilities in the view of the certifying body. People become certified through training and/or passing an exam. Most commonly, the certification is valid for a set period of time and requires one to
maintain that certification by continuing education. A commitment to one's profession is shown by being certified in one's field.
The overwhelming majority of LSOs (laser safety officer) state laser safety only occupies 30% or
less of their work duties and responsibilities. So why become a Certified Laser Safety Officer (CLSO), why take on the expense and effort in addition to maybe an existing certification? I would
suggest a two-part answer.
Part one: As I stated earlier, a certification is a designation earned by a person, as opposed to
a job title. Anyone can (and some have) come to work and be told they are the new LSO. With some training depending on the laser, setting, and hazard, etc, they maybe able to do a decent job. As the
complexity of laser applications grows, the staff want the re-assurance that the person making laser safety decisions that effect them has more than an adequate background. Why are people willing to
pay a CPA $100/hour for the same work a bookkeeper can do for $20? It is because of the sense of confidence and thoroughness the CPA title eludes to. A CLSO needs a broader and more extensive
background and makes that all important commitment to obtain it. It is a commitment to a field of study and to those the CLSO is honored to protect.
Part two: A certification is a commitment the majority of employers recognize and have been
willing to support with training dollars and salary. Experience shows that employers are more willing to support travel and training to continue a staff member's certification than one without. In
these days of integrated safety management practices, quality management practices and ISO certification, the qualifications of one's staff is an asset employers and their clients have come to
recognize. With that in mind, being a CLSO is a plus for any organization one works for. The salary expectations of the CLSO should be higher than the LSO.
In summary, I go back to an earlier point, being and or hiring a CLSO is a commitment by an
individual or organization to a safety discipline that is an asset and not just a job title.
Ken Barat is currently the LSO and a CLSO at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.