Laser pointers - legal and safety matters
With regard to the possession and use of laser pointers, the following advice has been received from the University's legal department:
- (a) In NSW, it is illegal to be in possession of a laser pointer (irrespective of the class) in a public place, which includes the University, without a reasonable excuse that the pointer is needed for your occupation, education, training or hobby. For most academic staff, this exemption would probably apply.
- In NSW, it is illegal (and heavy penalties may apply) to be in possession of a laser pointer with a power output of more than 1 milliwatt without a permit. The exemptions to this prohibition are narrow and would only apply to staff who are members of an approved astronomical organisation, but only for the purpose of enabling the person to take part in activities associated with astronomy.
Please note that other jurisdictions may have different laws and prohibitions.
Note that the University's WH&S Policy now forbids the "possession, carriage or use of a prohibited weapon on campus" and this applies to over-powered laser pointers. A procedure is being developed to authorise exemptions for persons who need such a "prohibited weapon" for their work. Until then persons who qualify for an exemption under (b) should ensure that their documentation is in order and store their laser in a secure place when not involved in, or travelling to and from an astronomical demonstration.
Green laser pointers are the most likely to get you into trouble. Despite past warnings of potential hazards caused when the IR filter is omitted from the design, many low cost models on the market still do not have a filter and can be emitting dangerous levels of near infra-red radiation. For more information see the recent NIST report on this subject.
Recent experience has shown that Customs Officers are becoming much more careful about what lasers are allowed into the country. Even if you took your potentially illegal laser out of the country with you on the way to that conference, you stand a good chance of getting it confiscated on the way back in! (And if you try and get it back you may be threatened with legal action!!) If you REALLY need that high power hand-held GET A LICENCE.
Otherwise if you are in possession of a dubious laser pointer, you should hand it in to the police in accordance with s 28 of the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998 (NSW).
laserpointersafety.com has a wealth of information on the ins and outs of laser pointer safety