• Category A Laser Show Standard (draft proposal)

  • Category A Laser Show Standard (draft proposal)

What is a Category A Laser Show?

Since September 2022, ILDA has been working on a standard for "Category A Laser Shows." This is also referred to as a "Cat A" show.

The proposed standard describes requirements for a laser show that ILDA considers to be generally recognized as safe under the conditions of its intended use.

The chance of injury (hazardous effect or adverse biological change), from a laser show performed according to the Cat A requirements, is considered by ILDA to be vanishingly small.

Click the green button to download the most current public draft. At the bottom of the page is a blue button; click it to see the list of changes for earlier versions.

Safety features of a Cat A Laser Show

A Cat A Laser Show incorporates regulatory requirements from U.S. FDA, and standards practices from ANSI Z136. It includes these important requirements:

    • 6 watts maximum (peak) power from any one laser beam [Note: the 6 watt figure is temporary; an exact power level is still being discussed]

    • No unterminated beams

    • All beam termination points must be visible to the Laser Operator, assisted if necessary by Laser Spotters

    • Use FDA-certified laser projectors in the U.S.

    • No human exposure to light from Class 3B or 4 lasers

    • Continuous monitoring of all beam paths, locations and termination points during laser emission by a trained Laser Operator, assisted if necessary by Laser Spotters so there are no unmonitored paths/locations/termination points

    • The Laser Operator has an e-stop or equivalent method to immediately terminate emission in case of actual or imminent laser safety hazard

    • Secure mounting of laser projectors, and masking of laser emissions to restrict them to intended, safe areas

    • Prevent damage to materials

    • Anticipate problems in advance of the show, and plan for mitigation procedures

    • Keep a log of all laser usage, and any problems/issues that may arise

    • Training is required for Laser Safety Officers and Laser Operators; training and/or instruction is required for Laser Spotters and Laser Personnel

    • The person responsible for the laser's safe operation -- usually this is the Laser Safety Officer -- shall take an in-person or live online laser safety course, and shall pass a test prior to operating an ILDA Cat A Laser Show

ILDA will not object to Cat A Laser Shows

If a show conforms to the ILDA Category A Laser Show standard, ILDA will not object to the show, regardless of whether it meets governmental reporting requirements such as having a variance.

Three important caveats

1) The Cat A Laser Show Standard document is currently in draft. It is not adopted or approved by ILDA at this time. It will be discussed within ILDA, including at the 2022 ILDA Conference in London, prior to any adoption or approval. We welcome comments and suggestions; please contact ILDA.

2) Persons doing laser shows should still file for any government-required reporting such as having a variance. Just because ILDA is OK with a Cat A Laser Show, does not mean that U.S. FDA, state or local officials would not investigate and prosecute any reporting violations.

3) ILDA urges ANSI Z136.10, IEC, FDA and others to consider adopting the requirements and recommendations of the Cat A Laser Show Standard. Specifically, to relax government review and pre-approval (e.g. variances, annual reports, etc.) if a show meets the Cat A Laser Show requirements.

The third point, about eventual FDA adoption, is important.

An FDA variance is permission to vary from the rules. The variance form currently includes simple requirements (i.e., restricted beam distances and locations, operator control) as standard items. ILDA believes that shows meeting those simple requirements should not be required to obtain permission in advance. Only shows with special features such as audience scanning or unsupervised laser use should require further FDA review, and advance permission.

ILDA hopes that FDA regulations can eventually be modified, perhaps via a Laser Notice, to state that laser shows meeting specific requirements such as those in Cat A Laser Show Standard, do not need to file with FDA in advance. (Or, perhaps the laser show operators would need to file once with FDA, the way that Part 107 drone operators file once with FAA but then do not need to file separately each time their drone has different flight paths.)

Of course, if a person were to violate the Cat A Laser Show requirements, FDA would retain their authority to investigate and penalize them.

List of Cat A-trained operators and LSOs

The Cat A standard states that Cat A shows must be designed, or the design must be supervised, by a person with Laser Safety Officer training AND that the training shall include coverage of the Cat A requirements.

This means that even if a "regular" Laser Safety Officer designs or supervises a Cat A show, it is not officially Cat A unless the LSO also was trained on the Cat A requirements.


In May 2023, ILDA added Category A-specific information to our Laser Operator and Laser Safety Officer course material.

A list of everyone who has passed ILDA courses, as well as courses taught by Roberta McHatton, is on this page. Those persons who received Category A training are listed in green.

As of mid-June 2023, Cat A LSOs are only found in the list of ILDA Laser Safety Officers. We do not have any Cat A Laser Operators at this time, and Roberta has not yet added Cat A material to her LSO course.

For more information, visit our other ILDA websites:

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ILDAmember.com: Membership database and event management, including joining ILDA
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LasershowSafety.info: Information about safe laser shows, including laws, regulations, checklists, and more

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