Commercial laser pointers are most commonly designed to assist speakers when giving lectures or business presentations. A high-tech alternative to the retractable metal pointer, the laser pointer beam will produce a small dot of light on whatever object at which it is aimed. It can draw an audience’s attention to a particular key point in a slide show. They are also useful to point out overhead items during audits and at construction sites.
Pointers-like devices are also used for other purposes such as the aligning of other lasers, laying pipes in construction, and as aiming devices for firearms.
LBNL allows the use of Class 2 and Class 3a or 3R laser pointers with an output of up to 5 milliwatts without prior approval. The use of any other class laser pointer will need the prior approval of the Laser Safety Officer. All users and speakers are expected to follow safe laser practices:
Laser Pointer Tips:
|Never shine a laser pointer at anyone. Laser pointers are designed to illustrate inanimate objects.|
|Do not allow minors to use a pointer unsupervised.
Laser pointers are not toys.
|Do not point a laser pointer at mirror-like surfaces. A reflected beam can act like a direct beam on the eye.|
|Be aware of irresponsible uses of pointers so the psychological effect will be minimized if you are illuminated by one.|
|Do not purchase a laser pointer if it does not have a caution or danger sticker on it identifying its class. Report suspicious devices to the FDA.|
Laser Pointer Safety Guidelines
Laser pointers are effective tools when used properly. Users of laser pointers should be aware of the potential hazards and follow the recommended safety precautions. Momentary exposure from a laser pointer might occur from an inadvertent sweep of the light across a person’s eyes, and may cause temporary effects such as glare, after-image, and flash blindness. However, even this can be dangerous if the exposed person is engaged in a vision-critical activity, such as driving or flying an aircraft.
To ensure safety, follow these guidelines:
- Do not intentionally stare into the laser beam.
- Do not intentionally aim the pointer beam at oneself or another person, particularly in the face.
- Direct the beam toward the screen and away from the audience.
- Turn the beam off when not in use.
- Do not point the laser beam at mirror like surfaces.
Legal implications of Laser Pointer Misuse
The California Penal Code has several sections that state that misuse of a laser pointer can be considered a misdemeanor or felony. In particular, directing any laser beam at another person may constitute assault (suggesting the use of a laser gun sight) and directing any laser beam at an aircraft may constitute malicious mischief. These items can result in fines and or jail sentences.
Selecting a Laser Pointer
When choosing a laser pointer, try to select a Class 2 laser, as it has lower-power emissions. Most commercially available laser pointers, however, are Class 3R. When possible, purchase red-light laser pointers, and avoid using green- or blue-light laser pointers, as these may emit invisible light in addition to the visible light if the infrared (IR) blocking filter is missing. Be aware that laser pointers may emit power levels above what is marked on the label.
This pointer is a frequency-doubled Nd: YAG laser. The output beam is 532 nm, with a blocked infrared beam at 1,064 nm. These pointers are exceptionally bright to the human eye; for safety, it is critical that the invisible 1,064 nm beam-blocking filter be in place. They are not any more hazardous but have received complaints of eye strain due to their perceived brightness.
Labeling of Laser Pointers
The pointer manufacturer is required by federal law (21 CFR Part 1040) to have a laser warning label on the pointer. The label must show the laser hazard symbol, laser classification, laser wavelength, and maximum power output.