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UK: "Call for evidence" response summarizes many groups' views on laser eye, plane incidents; sets forth actions

[NOTE: This news item includes commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com, as we feel the U.K. report is a must-read which gives important guidance on laser pointer hazards and actions.]

The U.K. government published on January 8 2018 a 14-page report on laser pointer safety and potential regulation. The report includes two new actions the government will take to reduce the number and risk of unsafe laser pointers:

     1) “strengthening safeguards to stop high-powered lasers entering the country”, and
     2) “working with manufacturers and retailers to [voluntarily] improve labeling.

Separately, the U.K. government published the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill on December 20 2017. This makes it illegal to point a laser at vehicles, with a prison term of up to five years and an unlimited fine.

“Laser pointers: call for evidence - government response”


From August 12 to October 6 2017, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy opened a “Call for Evidence” consultation. BEIS set forth 19 questions, asking the public to give their views on laser pointer hazards and what actions to take.

The January 8 2018 government response summarizes the 265 responses received.

The report is especially useful because it incorporates the views of many disparate groups: pilots (64% of respondents), “concerned members of the public” (14%), professional laser safety advisors (9%), users of laser pointers (6%), ophthalmologists (6%), and Trading Standards authorities (2%).

The report then distills these views, finding surprising commonality. It is a good overview for the non-expert on two topics:

     1) Actual laser pointer hazards — separating fact from fear
     2) Potential actions to reduce the number and severity of laser pointer injuries and incidents — including what actions may not work (e.g., licensing).

We have summarized the findings below (click the “read more” link). However, reading the complete document is well worth the time of anyone interested in this issue.
Click to read more...

UK: New UK law provides stronger penalties, easier prosecution for aiming a laser at a vehicle

The following press release is from the U.K. Department of Transport, published December 20 2017. The Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill is a pending law so as of this date, it is not in force. (UPDATED January 8 2018 - The bill will be read on January 9 2018 in the House of Lords. Thanks to John O’Hagan for this update.)

The text of the bill is here. A House of Lords Summary Briefing, giving some background, is here.


Tough new penalties for misuse of lasers

People who target transport operators with laser devices could be jailed for up to 5 years under new laws designed to protect the public.

The Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill, which was published today (20 December 2017), will also expand the list of vehicles, beyond just planes, which it is an offence to target with lasers.

Drivers of trains and buses, captains of boats and even pilots of hovercraft will be among those protected by the new legislation.

The bill will make it easier to prosecute offenders by removing the need to prove an intention to endanger a vehicle.

And it will remove the cap on the amount offenders can be fined – which is currently limited to £2,500 – paving the way for substantial sanctions. Fines could be issued in isolation or alongside a prison sentence.

The police will also be given additional powers to catch those responsible for the misuse of lasers.

Aviation Minister, Baroness Sugg said:

     “Lasers can dazzle, distract or blind those in control of a vehicle, with serious and potentially even fatal consequences.”

     “The government is determined to protect pilots, captains, drivers and their passengers and take action against those who threaten their safety.”

Alongside their existing powers of arrest and the ability to search a person once arrested, officers will no longer need to establish proof of intention endanger to a vehicle, aircraft or vessel, making it easier to prosecute swiftly. It will be an offence to shine or direct a laser towards a vehicle if it dazzles or distracts the operator, if done deliberately or if reasonable precautions to avoid doing so are not taken.
Click to read more...

UK: 19 questions UK government is asking advice on by October 6 2017

The following are the 19 questions the U.K. government asked on August 12 2017, regarding use and misuse of laser pointers. This comes from their 23-page Call for Evidence PDF document.

Interested parties are requested to submit answers to these questions — and any free-form answers as well — via an online survey, by postal mail, or by sending an email by October 6 2017.

Additional information and links about the U.K. call for evidence are here.

1.
What do you consider to be the scale of the problem with laser pointers? Is the problem specific to high-powered laser pointers (those with a strength of 5 mW or above), or a particular class of laser pointers? What evidence do you have to support your view?

2. How well do you think the current legislation is working? Is the current guidance on safe use of laser products sufficient?

3. Is the current guidance on manufacturing and importing laser pointers sufficient?

4. Do you have any further evidence about the nature and misuse of laser pointers?

5. What legitimate uses are there for high-powered laser pointers?

6. Have you ever purchased, sold or made a laser pointer? If so, can you provide more information about where you bought or sold the product (or its component parts), and what the intended use was?

7. (Enforcement Bodies) Do you know/can you estimate the number of manufacturers, retailers, importers and/or distributers within your Local Authority area?

8. What strength laser pointers do you make/sell? What is the price of each strength laser pointer that you make/sell? Is this a seasonal product (e.g. do you sell more at Christmas)? How many do you sell annually?

9. What is your target market?

10. (If you are an enforcement authority) Have you undertaken any enforcement actions with respect to laser pointers, and if so what were they?

11. (If you are an enforcement authority) What do you estimate as being the level of compliance with the General Product Safety Regulations for laser pointers in your area? On what evidence do you base this?

12. Do you think a licensing system to control the sale and purchase of laser pointers would be effective?

13. What do you estimate the costs of implementing a licensing system to be? How should these be recovered?

14. How might a licensing regime operate? Who should administer a licensing system? Who should enforce it?

15. Are you aware of any other licensing systems in the UK or in other countries – either for laser pointers or for similar products - which might provide the Government with a useful comparison?

16. Do you think that a ban on advertising laser pointers would be effective? Why?

17. How else might Government and other public authorities increase public awareness about the potential dangers of laser pointers?

18. How else do you think that the supply of high-powered laser pointers could be restricted? Why?

19. Do you have any other comments or views which might inform the Government’s recommendations?

UK: Government asks for ways to crack down on laser misuse; deadline is October 6

The U.K. government on August 12 2017 issued “a call for evidence into the regulation of laser pointers, including the potential value of retail licensing schemes, advertising restrictions, and potential restrictions on ownership in order to address serious public safety concerns.”

The government is concerned both with hazards from aiming laser pointers at pilots, drivers and train operators, and the potential for retinal damage among consumers when high-powered lasers are aimed into eyes.

They opened a consultation asking for suggestions for eight weeks, starting August 12 and closing at 11:45 pm on October 6 2017. A 23-page Call For Evidence PDF document is posted at the open consultation webpage. It includes background information on laser hazards and misuse.

There are 19 specific questions asked by the government, plus it is possible to respond with free-form text. Persons can respond via an online survey, by postal mail, or by sending an email.

The full text of the government’s press release is below.

From the UK government press release “Government crackdown on misuse of laser pointers”, the open consultation “Laser pointers: Call for evidence” webpage, and the call for evidence online survey webpage.
   Click to read more...