A study was made of the optical radiation hazards associated with 1 to 5 kilowatt carbon-dioxide (CO2) laser welding and cutting processes. Optical radiation detectors utilized to assess radiant energy levels were briefly described. Radiation was measured at 1.0 meter distance from the plume radiation, defined as radiation produced by laser beam interactions with a metal, as a function of laser power level, base material, and shield gas. The maximum spectral irradiance at 1.0 meter for selected wavelengths on three different welding events using mild steel, titanium, and stainless steel as the base material were determined. The spectral irradiance levels recorded showed that optical radiations were produced in the welding plasma at wavelengths other than 10.6 micrometers. The brightness of the welding source ranged from 1.1 to 6.2 candelas per square centimeter. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation ranged from 46 to 88 microwatts per square centimeter (microW/cm2) in the near UV region and up to 200microW/cm2 in the far UV region. The total integrated irradiance from 400 to 500 nanometers produced by the CO2 laser was about 60 microwatts per square centimeter. Scattered laser radiation, the nominal hazard zone (NHZ), plume radiation, nonbeam issues, control measures, and laser eye protection were discussed. Topics were outlined for a suggested safety-training course for personnel working with all Class IV CO2 laser systems. Guidelines were given for preparing standard operating procedures for laser operations. The authors conclude that the CO2 laser, if not properly controlled, can present major beam hazards, especially for industrial welding applications where the beam is not enclosed.