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Legislation regulating lasers in different countries

Legislation regulating lasers in different countries

 

As the popularity and use of lasers around the world become widespread, it is important to understand the laws and regulations that many people encounter in dealing with lasers. Situations arise when a buyer is unaware or unsure if it’s legal to purchase and own a particular laser in their country, or if local laws require certain standards to be met before a laser can be imported into the county. Although you can buy and own a laser, you will have to follow the countries laws and regulations. Laser products usually require labels on their products such as having radiation levels, power output, class of the laser, hazards, and labels of compliance with safety regulations. This is because of the risk of accidents and harmful effects. There are four classes of lasers, Class 1, Class 2, Class 3, and Class 4 and certain countries will prohibit high powered lasers or may require the law to be followed for high power level lasers. In most countries, the purchase and ownership of lasers are legal. The most common type of laser used for commercial products is low-powered lasers. However, there are a lot of countries that will not allow lasers without safety or certification standards.

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Laser dangers

Safety is paramount when lasers have a potential for commercial, personal use, and industrial use. Lasers have many potential dangers due to the amount of power they can give out and the harm that can be caused by a laser product. Hazards include laser air and land transportation hazards, fire hazards, and other security hazards. Lasers can also be dangerous and cause harm to the skin, eyes and cause damage to eyes or blindness. To protect against accidents, it is necessary to always wear protective goggles when working with any high-powered laser. Another risk of lasers is that they are a threat to certain security cameras. Lasers can damage and sometimes compromise security cameras. The use of security cameras remains important for monitoring and automated vision. The threat of lasers includes damage beyond use and can render them useless by damaging the pixels. To protect against lasers and reduce their impact, cameras with smaller holes can reduce the exposure of the cameras and make them harder to damage. Some other common protection measures against lasers for security cameras are to use more than one camera, install infrared filters if your camera does not have one already, place the camera high making tracking difficult, and turn on a notification in the event your camera is off.

 

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Germany

Owning and buying lasers of any power is possible without restrictions, with the exception of laser sights. Laser sights are equal to the details of the weapon and fall under the relevant laws. However, the sale of laser pointers with the power of more than 5 mW on the territory of Germany is prohibited.

The import of laser pointers from abroad (including those with a capacity of more than 1 mW) is allowed, as the purchase in foreign online stores. However, customs has the right to destroy the laser pointer if it does not have a CE certification mark or a standard laser safety mark. The money for this purchase in that case will not be returned.

The owner of the laser is fully responsible for its use. In case of an accident, the owner of the laser pays the victim all the costs of his treatment, restoration of damaged property, etc., and the laser is to be destroyed. In certain cases, fines are possible.

The use of lasers with a power of more than 5 mW in open spaces is prohibited. In case of violation, the laser is prohibited. In private areas, you can use the laser as you like and any power, but only on the condition that it does not get to strangers (including illegally entered the territory!).

Pointing lasers at an airplane or a car, even accidentally, not even entailing no consequences, is the creation of a hazard to aircraft or road traffic. This action is punished by a fine (in special cases and prison), laser destruction.

 

EU

On November 3 2010, radiation safety authorities in Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden asked the European Commission to “immediately begin preparing a European Directive for battery-powered lasers and establish import restrictions on such items.” The goal is to allow only Class 1 and 2 pointers; lasers above 1 mW would be restricted.

 

New Zeland

On December 18 2013, New Zealand announced new regulations on handheld high-power laser pointers. They take effect March 1 2014.

Laser pointers with powers over 1 milliwatt are subject to import controls, and sales are restricted to astronomers, surveyors and a few other groups. Permission can be sought on an individual basis for other needed uses.

The new regulations do not affect possession of high-power lasers; however, there is separate legislation in Parliament which would affect possession. As of December 18 2013, this bill has not been passed.

These are the new regulations:
– The Custom Import Prohibition (High-power Laser Pointers) Order 2013 restricts the importation of high-power laser pointers to those people who have received consent from the Director-General of Health to import them. To get consent to import high-power laser pointers you need to apply to the Director-General of Health.
– Health (High-power Laser Pointers) Regulations 2013 restrict the supply of high-power laser pointers to those who are authorised suppliers and also restricts the acquisition of such devices to those who are authorised recipients. To become an authorised supplier (allowing you to sell such devices) or an authorised recipient of a high-power laser pointer you need to apply to the Director-General of Health.

People can apply to be authorised as a person or classes of persons to supply or acquire high-power lasers. For example, a person can apply for consent to import, or to import and supply, such devices. Those obtaining them from a New Zealand supplier may need to apply for consent to acquire them for their own personal use, or if required, also apply for consent to be able to sell them to others.

 

Laser pointers in Canada

You may still buy and own a laser pointer—you just need to follow the new [as of June 28 2018] safety measure.

You cannot possess a hand-held laser over 1 milliwatt (mW) outside of a private dwelling within:
– municipalities within the greater Montréal, Toronto or Vancouver regions
– a 10-kilometre radius of an airport and certified heliports

You may possess a hand-held laser anywhere in Canada for any of the following reasons:
– The laser has 1 mW of power or less
– You are in possession of the laser for a legitimate purpose, such as for work, school or educational purposes.
– You are a member of an astronomy society and are in possession of the laser for that purpose. (Learn more about lasers for astronomy and laser light shows)

 

UK

According to the UK law, not every laser can be used on this territory. Some lasers are strictly for use by medical, industrial, or entertainment professionals and should only be used by a person with appropriate training and licenses.

The FDA requires labels on most laser products that contain a warning about the laser radiation and other hazards, and a statement certifying that the laser complies with FDA safety regulations. The label must also state the power output and the hazard class of the product. Consumer laser products are generally in classes I, II, and IIIa, while lasers for professional use may be in classes IIIb and IV.

 

USA

In the USA, lasers are regulated also by the FDA. According to the Code of Federal Regulations (21CFR1040.10), lasers which are portable and battery-operated or those which are intended for alignment applications are defined as “surveying, levelling, or alignment lasers(s)” (SLA lasers), regardless of their intended purpose, and these are restricted to FDA Class IIIa/IEC Class 3R or lower. The purpose of this restriction is public safety, because lasers above this Class may cause harm from momentary accidental exposure. Unfortunately, there is no license, certification, or qualification which would exempt any individual or company from this restriction.
If you live in the USA and require a portable laser or alignment laser, there are several options available to you.
You can choose a laser which is Class IIIa/Class 3R or lower.

This usually means that the laser will be restricted to 5 mW or less, except in the case of certain alignment lasers which produce lines, crosses, or other patterns. Check the product description to see which Class a particular laser falls under. If in doubt, we can help you to find a laser which is Class IIIa/3R, or lower, which may suit your needs.

You can choose a laser which is not an SLA laser.
If you require more power than Class IIIa/3R will allow, and you are not intending to use the laser for an alignment or pointing application, then you may select a laboratory/OEM laser source instead. These typically run on AC or DC current and are not designed to be easily portable or operated from batteries.

 

Australia

In Australia, the use of UV emitting lasers is regulated by AS/NZS2211.1:1996.The use of lasers in healthcare is further regulated by the AS/NZS 4173: Guide to the safe use of lasers in health care, while laser use in the construction industry must also comply with AS 2397: Safe use of lasers in the building and construction industry.

These guidelines outline the purposes for which lasers should be used, engineering (e.g. barriers) and administrative (e.g. signage) controls which should be put in place in environments where lasers are used, and also requirements for protective clothing and accessories for laser users. Users should be trained in safety measures relevant to the use of lasers, and are thereafter bound by the Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995, to implement sufficient protective measures to protect themselves from lasers.

There is also further legislation governing the use of Class 4 lasers used for treating patients, outlined in the Radiation Safety Act and Regulation 1999.

 

International law

It is prohibited to use laser weapons specifically made for military operations exclusively or including in order to cause permanent blindness to the organs of vision of a person who does not use optical devices.

This prohibition does not apply to laser weapons that cause temporary blindness. One of its applications is the suppression of criminal acts against the employees of the Ministry of internal Affairs and special units performing their duties to protect law and order and in the capture of offenders. The use of such weapons in self-defense provides a small degree of risk to the health and life of the defender.

In December 2017, the use of laser weapons causing permanent blindness is recognized as a war crime.

 

 

CONCLUSION

Many countries have laws and regulations on lasers and for safety reasons, some products such as lasers cannot be shipped to every country without full compliance with the laws and regulations. The import of lasers have restrictions in each country are to protect from harm and accident. If standards are not met and if the laser is illegal to own, certain countries will not allow lasers.

Generally speaking, most countries allow lasers that emit various power levels such as for scientific and educational use, industrial use, and medical use. Lasers are versatile tools that are used around the world for many different purposes, ranging from health, entertainment, applications to scientific and medical applications that save lives. 

Please exercise caution and obey the laws of your country about lasers. Lasers can be are extremely powerful and as such, should be handled with care. Laws and regulations help to ensure the safety of others and yourself. 

 

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