The Safety of laser lighting displays

What you will find on this page

Laser safety information aimed at helping duty holders who procure, install, operate and manage laser lighting displays in the entertainment industry.

Your duties as client/organiser

As part of managing health and safety at your event, you must assess and control risks associated with a laser lighting display. To do this you need to think about what might cause harm to people (employees, contractors, performers and your audience) and decide whether you are doing enough to prevent harm. This process is known as risk assessment and it is something duty holders are required by law to carry out. 

Where you have contracted an organisation/individual to design, install, align and operate a laser display for you, eg a laser display company, just like any other contractor, you must take reasonable steps to ensure they are competent and adequately resourced to undertake their safety role effectively.

Your duties as a venue, equipment manufacturer/supplier, laser lighting display installer/operator

Other duty holders involved in the production of a laser lighting display, including venues, equipment manufacturers/ suppliers and installers/operators, will have comparable health and safety duties to the extent of control each has over the equipment, work activity and workplace during installation and operation of a laser display.

Whatever the scale of the laser display, make sure there is a clear understanding within the organising team about who will be responsible for safety matters. Also, have systems in place to help parties cooperate and communicate with each other and coordinate their work.

What you should know

A laser lighting display can be a fantastic and memorable addition to a performance and/or event.  

If the display involves the use of hazardous lasers with high radiant powers (typically from 200mW to 40W+ ie class 3B &4 lasers) then action will be required to control the risk of a significant eye injury.  High power lasers with radiant powers that exceed around 500mW may also burn skin on contact and can be a fire risk.

Other hazards include outdoor laser display beams dazzling passing motorists, pilots etc.

What you should do

Take steps to restrict direct and reflected access to hazardous laser beams eg via shiny/reflective surfaces.

You need to think about this in relation to normal equipment operation and fault conditions eg if a fault occurs have an emergency shut down plan, which ensures the laser beam isn't concentrated into an audience/work area where people may be harmed.

In particular, the following situations need to be considered during planning and system design:

  • Installation and alignment of the laser display;
  • pre-display checks and operation; and
  • planned audience participation ie exposure / scanning.

Depending on the scale, complexity and type of display and work undertaken, laser beam safety controls may include one or a combination of:

  • Substitution – using a non-hazardous laser;
  • For hazardous lasers – engineering design features which prevent equipment displacement/misalignment, beam enclosures, blanking plates, scan failure safety systems  and emergency stop functions that terminate a display if problems occur;
  • Suitable handover arrangements between a supplier/installer and display operator (if different) including information about safe operation, checks & maintenance;
  • Operational controls such as crowd barriers/warning signs and stewards to keep people away from no-go areas, use of competent operators and an appropriate level of supervision to ensure safe systems of work are followed, well-practised emergency shutdown procedures;
  • Eye protection and fire proof gloves/overalls for those people engaged in alignment and setting up procedures;
  • Following Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) guidance to ensure beams are projected away from airports and flight paths and NOTAMs (Notice to airman) filed.

Further information

More detailed guidance on the safety of display laser installations is available from the Professional Lighting and Sound Association

This is a free, HSE endorsed industry technical guide, which covers organisation and planning, system design, installation and alignment, pre-display checks, operation and post-display analysis.  It replaces HSE's guidance HS(G) 95 'The radiation safety of lasers used for display purposes', which has been withdrawn.

General HSE guidance about optical radiation safety and associated legislation

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