For information on Laser Pointer hazards refer to the Safety Alert.
Laser pointers and the law
It does not take much power to do eye damage. This image shows a burn to the retina from an accidental exposure to a low-powered (2 mW) laser during a light show.
Restrictions on laser pointers in WA
According to reg. 53B of WA’s Radiation Safety (General) Regulations 1983,
A person shall not manufacture, sell, use or possess a laser pointer unless — (a) it is a class 1 or class 2 laser.
The maximum allowable power for these classes of laser is 1 mW. As a rough guide, looking into at a 1 mW laser beam is about the same as looking at the sun.
According to the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency,
In Australia, all laser pointers that are available to the public must have a radiant power output of less than 1 milliwatt (mW).
Please see their Laser focus on illegal imports article for more information.
Possession of more powerful laser pointers
Laser pointers of power greater than 1 mW are classified as controlled weapons (see schedule 2, part 10AA of WA’s Weapons Regulations 1999). Lasers of power greater than 5 mW must be registered under WA’s Radiation Safety Act 1975 and a licence issued under the same Act is required to use one.
What to do if my laser pointer exceeds class 1 or 2
Please contact Curtin’s Radiation Safety Officer (firstname.lastname@example.org) for information on dealing with non-compliant laser pointers.
Lasers pointers exceeding class 1 or 2 must not be brought onto Curtin University premises.
Laser pointer sunlight test
Laser pointers of power greater than 1 mW are not legal in WA. Looking at a 1 mW laser is like looking at the sun. There is a quick test you can do yourself – the sunlight test. Before describing the test, please note these laser safety rules:
- Never look into a laser beam.
- Never point a laser at anyone.
These apply to all lasers, even ones that you think are safe because you bought them off the Internet and that means they are safe, right? Wrong. Internet vendors regularly sell laser pointers that are not eye safe and are in fact illegal to possess in Western Australia.
Now for the sunlight test. Take your laser pointer outside on a sunny day and point it at the ground in a shady area. You should be able to see the laser spot shining on the ground. Now point the laser at an area of ground that is in direct sunlight. The laser spot should disappear. If the laser still makes a bright spot when pointed at ground in direct sunlight then its power is more than 1 mW.
Please do not hesitate to contact the Radiation Safety Officer (email@example.com; 0434 208 534) if you want your laser pointer tested. We have a few pointers that will be exchanged for over-powered ones until our stock runs out.