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UK government ‘to clamp down further’ on unsafe lasers

11 Jan 2018

Announces measures to tackle sale of unsafe pointers – following last month’s Misuse of Lasers bill.

UK Government warning: culprits face jail and/or unlimited fines.

UK Government warning: culprits face jail and/or unlimited fines.

The UK government has announced new measures to tackle the sale of unsafe laser pointers, including strengthening safeguards to stop high-powered lasers entering the country.

In a response to a call for evidence launched in 2017 following a the surge in the number of incidents involving lasers, the government this week (January 8th) pledged additional support to local authority ports and borders teams to stop high-powered laser pointers entering the UK.

In December 2017, the government published the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill, which also expanded the range of vehicles covered, beyond just aircraft, which it is an offence to target with lasers.

The latest measures include supporting local authority teams to carry out increased checks at the UK Border, including testing products to ensure they are safe. The support will also ensure local authority teams have access to the necessary scientific, technical and testing expertise.

The government this week said that it will work with manufacturers and retailers to improve laser pointer labelling, indicating that they must not be pointed at eyes or at vehicles and must state the power level of the product. The policing of online laser pointer sales will also be improved by working with online retailers such as eBay.

Eye injuries

More than 150 incidents of eye injuries involving laser pointers were reported since 2013, the vast majority of these involving children. As in many of these cases neither children nor their parents have known the danger involved, the government will also work to raise awareness of the risks associated with laser pointers.

In 2016, the Civil Aviation Authority received reports of 1,258 laser incidents, with Heathrow the most frequent location for reports of the devices being used recklessly. Laser beam attacks against the rail network are also a concern. Records from the British Transport Police show that between 1 April 2011 and 30 November 2017, a total of 578 laser incidents were recorded. This equates to approximately 96 incidents per year.

Margot James, the UK’s Consumer Minister, said “The government has listened to concerns from pilots, health professionals and safety experts, which is why we are going further than ever before to crack down on the sale of unsafe devices.

Since 2005 at least 35,000 laser pointing strikes have been reported to the US FAA.

Since 2005 at least 35,000 laser pointing strikes have been reported to the US FAA.

Public safety

“Public safety is of the utmost importance and we are working to increase the public’s knowledge of the potential dangers associated with these devices and strengthening the penalties for when they are misused.”

Professor John O’Hagan, of PHE’s Laser and Optical Radiation Dosimetry Group, said, “Over time we have become increasingly concerned about the dangers of growing numbers of unlabelled and incorrectly labelled high power laser pointers being bought by the public.

“It is tragic that we continue to see eye injuries, especially in children. Laser safety experts at Public Health England have worked closely with local authorities in stopping large numbers of these lasers reaching UK consumers. The extra protections proposed should help even further - if you have a laser and you don’t need it, remove the batteries and get rid of it.”

Brian Strutton, General Secretary of the British Airline Pilots Association, said, “The Department for Transport recently announced the introduction of new tougher laws for those who shine lasers at aircraft.

“Now the tougher restrictions on importation should hopefully stop high-powered lasers reaching the hands of those with ill-intentions in the first place. Shining a laser at an aircraft is extremely dangerous and has the potential to cause a crash that could be fatal to not only those on board, but people on the ground too.”

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