On the 1.6W beam, 0.5% is only 8mW. According to scientificamerican.com and laserpointersafety.com that’s fine as long as you’re not pointing the laser at your eye.
As xchrisd’s link to DiodeGoneWild’s video shows, safety glasses will cut the brightness of the laser. If you put the glasses on and don’t see a large reduction in the brightness, then the glasses aren’t working.
I’m not going to say what’s safe and what isn’t, I’ll just say what I’m personally comfortable with. I grew up around welders, so I have an aversion to staring at bright lights. If you think it’s too bright, then it’s too bright.
Personally, I’m comfortable doing a quick focus of the 1.6W laser at 0.5% power. Well, after I double and triple check that the power settings are set correctly. 0.5% looks a lot like 5% when you’re not paying close attention, and it’s the difference between 8mw and 80mw. I wouldn’t spend a lot of time trying to dial it in perfectly. Go through the focal point, then go back to what you think is right, and call it good. I’m more comfortable spending some time to get the 200mW laser at 1% dialed in nicely.
But you know what they say: