Laser pointers are now used regularly in lectures and other teaching activities. It has been noted that some of the new pointers, which are readily available in the UK and include red and green devices, are more powerful than the older models and pose a serious risk of eye injury to anyone exposed to the beam. This apparent irregularity of devices being available that may be hazardous arises in part due to American (ANSI) standards being more relaxed than British/European Standards (BS EN). Laser pointers used in areas under the control of the University of St. Andrews must comply with the following University policy based on BS EN standards and CVCP recommendations:
- Laser Pointers must not exceed Class 2 (1 mW output power);
- Laser Pointers must be purchased from reputable manufacturers and suppliers;
- Laser Pointers may only be modified under certain circumstances (e.g. output power reduction) and only with the approval of the University Laser Safety Adviser.
- Ambient lighting should be kept as high as practicable - blackout conditions should be avoided whenever practicable;
- Laser Pointers must not be directed towards eyes;
- Prior to use, checks should be made that there are no reflective surfaces that could foreseeably redirect the laser beam towards eyes (user and audience);
- Schools / Units are required to take steps to ensure that all relevant persons are made aware of this guidance, including visitors to the University of St. Andrews.
- The use of green or 630nm red waveband laser pointers is recommended. These wavelengths afford greater visibility per unit power;
- If visiting another establishment and intending to use a laser pointer, you should first check the local regulations.
Dr. Cameron F. Rae,
University Laser Safety Adviser