Radiation Protection Unit

Laser Pointers

Here you will find information about Laser Pointers and how to ensure you are using them safely.


Lasers are becoming much more common in everyday items. They can now be found in DVD players, children’s toys and laser pointers. Laser Pointers are readily available to buy online from cheap online retailers such as Amazon and eBay and unfortunately the lasers are sometimes mislabelled and can be much more powerful than would be acceptable for unrestricted use.

Many people are unaware that their laser pointers and other similar items may be more dangerous than realised. Lasers are designated a Class, ranging from safe Class 1 to inherently dangerous Class 4, as defined by the British Standard for Laser Safety (BS EN 60825). A laser pointer should not be designated higher than Class 2 and domestic devices should not be Class 3B or Class 4; Class 4 lasers also pose a fire hazard. Remember, manufacturers may assign their products a lower laser class in order for them to be sold on the open market; for example, Amazon do not allow laser pointers to be sold above 1mW (Class 2) but many manufacturers describe their product as ‘Super power laser <1mW’ to get around the restriction.

High powered lasers, and even Class 2 lasers if misused, can cause blind spots or blindness if directed into the eye. This is particularly a problem in children who often view the laser pointers as toys or novelty items and often challenge their peers to ‘stare’ at the laser for as long as they can.

Here is a short video from Public Health England (PHE) explaining the dangers of laser pointers.

Video: PHE - Laser Pointers Video
Video produced by PHE to describe the dangers of laser pointers.

Laser Power Measurement

Understanding the potential risk, the University Radiation Protection Unit has invested in a Laser Power Meter that can be used to gauge the power level of laser pointers. The RPU would be happy to test any member of staff’s work or domestic laser pointers to ensure they are safe for use. Please email radiation@ed.ac.uk and we will be able to arrange a date for your laser pointer to be sent to the RPU for testing.

Further Information


The RPU have a Laser Pointer poster that can be displayed in each school; preferably on the Health and Safety noticeboard or equivalent. We hope that use of the poster will allow more of our staff and students to learn about the dangers of unrestricted lasers and encourage them to get in touch with the RPU for advice or for testing their lasers.

Many thanks to Imperial College London for allowing us to use their poster template.

Laser Safety Poster

Code of Practice

There is also a University Code of Practice, RP_COP110, detailing the safe use of laser pointers and similar devices.

Radiation Protection Unit - Codes of Practice


Public Health England have some excellent information on the Classification of lasers, detailing the specifications and hazards of each laser Class.

PHE - Laser radiation: safety advice