Lasers have been used in the entertainment industry since 1964, when they were used in
the film Goldfinger. Laser display shows commenced in about 1973. It would be
reasonable to expect laser safety to have been adequately addressed over the last
twenty-five years. This research showed that the industry was not able to assess the
risks from its work. A national survey of the competence of enforcing officers showed
that they rarely had the necessary expertise to judge the safety of shows. Therefore,
there was often a wide gulf between the laser companies and those responsible for
enforcing entertainment and health and safety legislation.
A hazard assessment methodology has been developed which considers any laser show
as a series of modules which may have different hazards associated with them at
different stages of the life cycle, and different people would potentially be exposed to
A number of laser radiation exposure situations have been assessed, including audience
scanning. A theoretical understanding of the laser scanning issues and the application of
measurement techniques to enable assessments to be carried out against internationally
recognised maximum permissible exposure levels were developed. The conclusion was
that the practice of audience scanning was not acceptable in its current form. A number
of laser companies worldwide have accepted this view as a direct result of this research.
A means of presenting the risk assessment for a laser display has been developed which
provides benefits for the laser company, the venue manager, event promoter and the
enforcing officer. It is recognised that a complete assessment may not be possible in the
time available and a focused approach to the assessment is presented. In summary, if
audience scanning is intended, the assessment is complex, but if this practice is not
intended then the assessment can be straightforward.
Suggestions are made for applying the risk assessment methodology to other laser
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.