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Regulatory Guide - How to determine whether a Class 1M or Class 2M laser product is a controlled apparatus

Last updated date: 
1 May 2020
Reason for update: 
References updated

1. Purpose

This document is provided to assist controlled persons to determine whether a Class 1M and Class 2M source is classed as a controlled apparatus under the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998 (the Act). In particular, it clarifies the conditions used in section 9 of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Regulations 2018 (the Regulations).  

Reference documents

AS/NZS IEC 60825.1 Safety of laser products Part 1: Equipment classification and requirements
AS/NZS IEC 60825.2 Safety of laser products Part 2: Safety of optical fibre communication systems (OFCS) 
AS/NZS IEC 60825.14 Safety of laser products Part 14: A user’s guide

2. Background

There are currently eight classifications for lasers based on the likelihood of injury. The classification of a laser is used to develop safety control measures. The Accessible Emission Limit (AEL) is the maximum accessible emission permitted within a particular class of laser.

Subparagraph 9(1)(a)(viii) of the Regulations defines a laser with an AEL greater than the accessible emission limit of a Class 3R laser product as a controlled apparatus. While subparagraph 9(1)(a)(ix) defines an optical fibre communication system exceeding Hazard Level 3R as a controlled apparatus. 

Because the emission level of Class 1M and Class 2M laser products may exceed the AEL for Class 3R, Class 1M and Class 2M lasers are potentially classified as controlled apparatus. However, paragraph 9(1)(b) states that a laser product is only controlled if it could lead to a person being exposed to laser radiation in excess of the exposure limits of the maximum permissible exposure (MPE) mentioned in AS/NZS IEC 60825.1.

3. Class 1M lasers

Class 1M laser is any laser product in the wavelength range from 302.5 nm to 4000 nm.

Since Class 1M is assigned to lasers where the exposure would not normally exceed the AEL of Class 1, most Class 1M lasers would not be considered to be a controlled apparatus.

The two notable exceptions to this would be where it is reasonably foreseeable that the beam may be viewed with magnifying optics like a telescope, binoculars or a microscope. Consequently the AEL may be greater than the AEL of a Class 3R laser: 

  1. Where the beam is collimated with a large diameter and optics is used to focus the beam, or
  2. Where the beam is highly divergent and optics is used near the laser aperture to collimate the beam.

Example: Laser diodes, fibre communication systems.

4. Class 2M lasers

Class 2M laser is any laser product in the wavelength range from 400 nm to 700 nm.

Class 2M applies only to visible lasers and assumes that a degree of protection is afforded by the aversion response (blinking and turning away). In most cases, due to the aversion response, it is not considered reasonably foreseeable that a person would deliberately view the beam for more than 0.25s. The same conditions given for Class 1M lasers apply to Class 2M lasers: unless the beam is viewed with magnifying optics it is not considered to be a controlled apparatus. 

Warning for potential hazard to the skin or eye

If the accessible emission from a Class 1M or Class 2M laser is greater than the AEL of a Class 3R as determined with a 3.5 mm diameter aperture placed at the closest point of human access, an additional warning regarding potential skin hazard and/or anterior parts of the eye hazard shall be given. The following additional warning shall be given on the device:

Warning sign that reads: AVOID EXPOSURE. LASER RADIATION IS EMITTED FROM THIS APERTURE

Hazard level 1M and 2M optical fibre communications systems (OFCS)

Hazard level refers to the potential hazard from laser emissions at any location in an end-to-end fibre optic communication system that may be accessible during use or maintenance or in the event of a failure or fibre disconnection as described in AS/NZS IEC 60825.2. The assessment of the hazard level uses the class AEL described in AS/NZS IEC 60825.1.

Hazard level 1M and Hazard level 2M OFCS may be considered to be controlled if their emission level exceeds the AEL for Class 3R and in the course of intended operations or under a reasonably foreseeable abnormal event, may lead to persons being exposed to emission in excess of the MPE mentioned in AS/NZS IEC 60825.1. Each accessible location in an extended enclosed optical transmission system will be designated by a hazard level as those for classifications in AS/NZS IEC 60825.1 and based on radiation that could become accessible and exceeds the AEL for Class 3R under reasonably foreseeable circumstances such as a fibre cable break or disconnected fibre connector. Labelling and marking requirements can be found in AS/NZS IEC 60825.2.

5. Summary

Class 1M and Class 2M lasers may be considered to be controlled if their emission level exceeds the AEL for Class 3R and in the course of intended operations or under a reasonably foreseeable abnormal event, may lead to persons being exposed to emission in excess of the MPE mentioned in AS/NZS IEC 60825.1. 

For the purposes of determination of Hazard level 1M and 2M optical fibre communications systems, the same rules apply as for Class 1M and 2M lasers.