In Singapore, high power laser pointers are controlled apparatus under the Radiation Protection Act. It is an offence to import, export, possess, use, manufacture, sell, deal with or deal in high power laser pointers without a licence from the National Environment Agency (NEA). Any person who imports, exports, keeps, possesses, uses, manufactures, sells, deals with or deals in any high power laser without a licence can be charged in court and is liable on conviction to a fine up to $100,000 or to imprisonment for a term up to 5 years, or to both.
Laser pointers are hand-held, pen-like and battery-powered devices that can project a laser beam. They are commonly used for the purpose of highlighting key locations at a distance or areas of interest on the screen during presentations.
Laser pointers are especially dangerous to people when the bright beam is shone into their eyes as it could lead to disorientation and may potentially cause accidents. One such example is the threat that laser pointers pose to pilots during the crucial stages of take-off and landing.
Commonly available laser pointers emit red-coloured light although there are laser pointers which emit green or blue light. Laser pointers with laser classes of 1, 2 or 3a, with beam power up to 5 milliwatts (mW) are within regulatory limit. Laser classes give users an indication of the degree of laser hazard. The higher the class, the more powerful the laser and the greater its potential to pose a hazard if used improperly.
High Power Laser Pointers
A high power laser pointer has laser emission that falls in the range of Class 3b and Class 4 lasers.
Class 3b laser pointers have power output ranging from 5 mW to 500 mW. These laser pointers can cause permanent eye injury when the eye is exposed to the direct beam or specular reflection of the beam. The severity of the eye injury will be dependent on the power of the laser beam entering the eye and the duration of the exposure. Class 3b lasers with power output approaching the upper end of the range may also cause skin burns.
Class 4 laser pointers have power output greater than 500 mW. These laser pointers can cause immediate and permanent eye injury when the eye is exposed to the direct beam or specular reflection of the beam. In addition, Class 4 laser pointers may cause skin burns and/or cut the flesh, and may also pose a fire hazard.
Hence, NEA generally would not approve any licence applications for high power laser pointers to members of the public.
There are cases where high power laser pointers were erroneously classified as Class 1, 2 or 3a lasers. The images below show some examples of high power laser pointers.
The following are some useful guidelines one should observe when operating a laser pointer:
Do not operate a laser pointer if the warning label does not state the hazard class of the laser.
Do not shine the laser beam on a reflective background.
Do not shine a laser beam at yourself or anyone, or at an aircraft or a moving vehicle.
Do not allow children to play with laser pointers.
In the event of an injury due to laser, please immediately consult an eye doctor. You should also notify NEA immediately. The contact person is Mr Steve Ang (ANG_Sern_Hong@nea.gov.sg).
Laser Pointers Imported Through Postal Services
If you are importing a laser pointer through postal service, you will receive a letter informing you to provide your personal particulars and the supporting documents to show that the laser pointer to be imported does not exceed 5mW of power output. Importers who do not provide this information within 14 days from the date of the letter will have their laser pointers returned to the sender.