Planets ASSA PretoriaGemini

Pretoria Centre of the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa

Laser Safety



Regulation 1302 identifies visible lasers with an output power over 0.30µW as ‘dangerous goods’ under the HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES ACT NO. 15 OF 1973

  1. Importers who import these devices must license the product at the Department of Health.
  2. Any person using a laser device with an output power of more than 5 mW has to register as a Laser Safety Officer (LSO) at the Department of Health.
  3. There is a general concern that laser pointers are used irresponsibly. This may increase the risk that green laser pointers be ‘overregulated’ by the Dept. of Health.

Delegates agree to the following:

  1. ASSA members are encouraged to register their unregistered laser pointers (It is currently free to do so)
  2. The organisers of events such as star parties, ScopeX, viewing evenings, etc, will be liable in accordance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (Act 85 of 1993) for any incident during the event. The organisers therefore have to define the ‘laser rules’ for the event and act accordingly.
  3. The organisers have the right to confiscate (store in safe position) any non-compliant laser pointer used at the event.
  4. There is no requirement for anyone (except presenting astronomers) to use a laser pointer with an output of more than 5mW for astronomy purposes.
  5. Presenting astronomers (those who do astronomy presentations to groups of people) may justify the use of stronger laser pointers. Suggested laser output ranged from 10mW to 50mW. The delegates agree that 20mW should be suitable for most applications, but foresee applications for up to 50mW.
  6. Approved organisations should be identified (eg: ASSA branches; Universities; SAAO; SANParks; etc) These organisations should recommend applications for LSO’s.
  7. The following ‘safe practices’ is a good starting point when presentations to groups are done:
    • Lasers should be used by knowledgeable astronomers under controlled circumstances:
    • Do not point at people, aircraft or animals
    • Keep suitable distance from audience
    • Warn the audience
    • Area should be clean of obstacles
    • Avoid pointing to surfaces that can give specular reflections
    • Minimise use (do not play)
    • Keep away from children
    • Do not use mechanisms that keeps the pointer switched on.
  8. The outcome should be posted on the website and comments requested.

Additional comments from discussions after the workshop:

  1. There was a notion that ‘approved organisations’ (ASSA; SAAO; Universities; etc) appoint personnel to train users of green laser pointers in the safe practices.
  2. Aspiring LSO’s has to pass a laser safety test.
  3. ASSA should have a LASER safety section (to communicate with the DoH)