In December 2013, the Government introduced new controls to manage the health and safety risks from high-power laser pointers.
There are two main risks from high-power laser pointers.
- People may not be aware of the potential harm these devices can cause and inadvertently shine them in their own eyes or other people’s eyes.
- People maliciously (or ignorantly) shine them at vehicles such as aircraft and dazzle the pilot. Even when shone from several hundred meters away high-power laser pointers can dazzle and cause temporary flash blindness. Distracting or dazzling a pilot in this way for instance, is a serious aviation safety risk, particularly during critical phases of flight such as take-off and landing. Car drivers, cyclists, and ship crews are also at risk if dazzled by high-power laser pointers.
The new controls cover the importation, supply and acquisition of high-power laser pointers.
- The Customs Import Prohibition (High-power Laser Pointers) Order 2019 restricts the importation of high-power laser pointers to those people who have obtained authorisation to import them from the Director-General of Health.
To get permission to import high-power laser pointers people have to apply to the Director-General of Health using the Application Form (Word, 143 KB). Go to Questions and answers for more information.
- Health (High-power Laser Pointers) Regulations 2013 restrict the sale/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 or an authorised recipient of a high-power laser pointer you need to apply to the Director-General of Health using the Application Form (Word, 143 KB). Go to Questions and answers for more information.
The new regulations came into force on 1 March 2014
The controls only apply to laser pointers with an output power of greater than 1 milliwatt.
The new regulations do not ban laser pointers outright. They impose controls on the supply chain and people are required to justify why they need the higher power devices (as opposed to a lower power laser pointer). Under the Summary Offences Act 1981, however, it is an offence to be in possession of a high-power laser pointer in a public place without a reasonable excuse. Go to Questions and answers for more information.
How to tell if a device is a high-power laser pointer
This diagram is available to download (pdf, 163 KB)
For enquiries on the controls on high-power laser pointers and the regulations please email: [email protected]