Safety, Health and Injury Management and Wellbeing

Ultraviolet light and transilluminators

Our role is to develop and assist in the implementation of the UWA safety, health and wellbeing programs in order to minimise the risk of injury, illness and property damage.

We provide consultancy and other services to promote best practice and legislative compliance in all University and related activities.

Transilluminators are a source of potentially hazardous ultraviolet (UV) radiation. As a prescribed electronic device under the Radiation Safety Act 1975, they must be registered with the Office of Safety and Health, and the Radiological Council.

Dangers of transilluminators

A transilluminator uses an intense source of UV radiation to make visible the fluorescent marker used in electrophoresis gels. The gel is placed on the transilluminator window and is illuminated from below. Ultraviolet radiation is hazardous to both skin and eyes.

Exposure to UV radiation at the surface of a transilluminator can exceed the National Health and Medical Research Council maximum permissible occupational exposure levels for skin and eyes in less than one second.

A number of transilluminator models are in common use. They produce UV light with varying intensities and spectra. It should be assumed that all are a UV hazard. If there is any doubt, Safety and Health can provide the characteristics of each model.


Transilluminators may be fitted with a UV absorbing cover. If the unit is operated without the cover in place or if it has no cover, then all exposed skin and the eyes of the operator must be protected.

Protection is achieved by wearing:

  • a face shield which complies with Australian Standards 1336 and 1338.2
  • substantial clothing (such as long sleeves and laboratory coats) and
  • heavy-duty gloves. Disposable vinyl gloves are not suitable as they are transparent to UV radiation.

Ultraviolet laboratory rules for use of transilluminators

The perspex shield supplied should be closed whilst the UV light is on.

If the work requires the shield to remain open:

  • All persons in the room must cover all exposed skin.
  • Face and eyes must be covered by wearing an appropriate UV absorbing full face shield.
  • Heavy duty rubber gloves should be worn on the hands. Standard laboratory gloves are not suitable for hand protection from UV.

The maximum permissible exposure per day for uncovered skin at the surface of the source is less than 0.3 seconds.