Laser Pointers

UT Austin Policy for Handheld Lasers on Campus

The wide availability and low cost of high power handheld laser devices has created a new public safety issue.  These lasers pose a higher threat due to their lost cost, availability, portability, and close similarity to the smaller, less powerful, less hazardous Class 3R laser pointers.  Laser pointers with a Class 3R label were randomly purchased and tested, and many were found to be several times over the listed power, making them an instantaneous eye hazard.  The accuracy of the listed power on many of these inexpensive, imported lasers is suspect, resulting in some manufacturers named in the FDA’s import seizure list.

There are multiple documented incidents of eye injury from these lasers, some of whom are children.

We know that our faculty and staff would not knowingly expose anyone to these laser beams, but even an accidental partial beam reflection could cause an instantaneous eye injury.

If a Class 3B handheld laser is used as a laser pointer, the risk of injury becomes unacceptable.  If used as a toy or in horseplay— a child, teen, student, or adult may experience significant vision loss.  Even if a person does not suffer permanent vision loss, the initial flash blindness, prolonged after-image, and temporary vision impairment create potential legal and public relations problems.

The Laser Safety Committee, Laser Safety Officer, and EHS Director are notifying faculty and staff that any class 3B or 4 lasers brought on campus must be assessed by EHS.  Any Class 3B or 4 lasers not properly assessed by EHS must be removed from campus.  In addition to the safety concern of the laser emissions in an uncontrolled environment, the State of Texas regulations require us to register the device and generate safety documents for its use on campus.  The Texas Dept. of State Health Services is also required to investigate suspected laser injuries, which will reveal irresponsible handling of a known, regulated hazard.

The use of these higher power lasers in any occupied space, academic or public, is prohibited without the approval of the Laser Safety Officer.

Laser pointers for academic use, classroom instruction, and other uses can still be performed by purchasing the acceptable Class 2 or Class 3R laser pointers. 

Contact EHS at (512) 471-3511 for more information, or email the Assistant Radiation and Laser Safety Officer, John Snow, at the following email address:

Thank you for your helping us make UT a safe place to learn and work.