NEW OPTICAL SAFETY DISTANCE STANDARDS FOR CINEMA PROJECTORS

New global optical safety distance standards for lamps were formally published in December 2020 – Here is what it means for the European cinema industry.

Disclaimer: The information provided in the FAQ below has been composed to the best of the EDCF knowledge. It cannot be considered legally binding nor conclusive.

What is it about?

On 20 December 2020, new standards related to optical safety distances for lamp projectors entered into force globally. These standards were drafted by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), an international standard-making body. These rules are related to the safe design, use, and implementation of projectors to minimize the risk of accidents, especially those involving eye injuries.

The IEC Technical Committee TC108 has been working on IEC 62368-1 since 2002. The applicable standards (IEC 62368-1 Ed. 2) were first published in 2014 and were formally adopted in December 2020. The standard was updated/corrected multiple times in the last six years and has now officially replaced previous standards from 2015.

The new safety standard superseded existing standards (IEC 60065 and IEC 60950-1) worldwide on 20 December 2020, with a few exceptions such as Australia and New Zealand, where the standards will be enforced from February 2022.

In Europe, IEC 62368-1 transposed via CENELEC – the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization, which is responsible for European standardization in the area of electrical engineering – under the parallel voting system. Meaning the requirements in the EN 62368-1 (with “EN” standing for “European Norms”) are identical to the requirements defined in the IEC 62368-1. The standards are harmonized under the low voltage directive (LVD) (2014/35/EU) and are part of the CE marking (for “conformité européenne”, French for “European conformity”). All projector manufacturers employ this standard to prove compliance.

The IEC standards can be found online via the IEC website. The standards can also be purchased from national standard bodies, with CENELEC – the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization – including reference to the national name of the standards here. Please find below links to the relevant web pages.

What changed?

The previous standards (IEC 60950-1), published in 2015, were only relevant for laser projectors in terms of optical radiation and mandatory classification. The 2020 standard (IEC 62368-1) applies to any projectors placed on the market after 20 December 2020. This FAQ addresses that specific change.

What is relevant?

Manufacturers must now give all lamp projectors a risk group rating and provide adequate safety information as indicated in the safety standards that apply to their products. These risk groups come with corresponding requirements as stipulated in IEC EN 62471-5: optical hazard distance, restriction zone, separation height, and other safety measures that can impact the design and operation of a cinema. Cinema operators and system integrators must ensure that the relevant safety requirements are respected during the installation and operation of the projector. The new standards can create challenges in the context of a refurbishment, possibly requiring the removal of a certain number of seats or access to the projected beam in an existing screening room to accommodate the reinforced safety requirements.

What are Risk Groups?

Depending on the Risk Group (RG) category under which a cinema projector is certified, different safety requirements must be respected during installation and operation. RG 0/1 is relevant for home cinema. RG 2 is relevant for projectors that generally do not cause an optical hazard and do not require additional safety precautions (typically below 10,000 lumens). RG 3 is relevant for professional use projectors, for which even a brief glance into the light beam at close range might cause an optical hazard. They require strict safety measures including a designated restricted area in front of the projector called hazard distance. The Risk Group category of a product is listed in the user or installation manuals.

The Laser Illuminated Projector Association (LIPA) has made available on its website a recorded presentation looking into safety regulations – with a focus on laser projectors – which will provide additional details about Risk Group categories. The presentation was published in 2019, prior to the publication of the new standards.

What is the equipment concerned?

Rather than targeting specific equipment, the new rule brings certain transactions into its scope. Laser projectors were already abiding by these requirements since 2015. In Europe, the new standards now apply to projectors made available for the first time on the market – or what is legally referred to as “placing on the market” in European guidelines. In other terms, it is only relevant in the context of a transaction between two different companies happening after 20 December 2020. Therefore, the standards do not apply to products moving within the same company.

Does it apply to second-hand equipment?

Yes, but only products which have been subject to important changes – i.e. an upgrade from their original maximum parameters – will be considered as “placed on the market” and will have to respect the new rules.

For instance, retrofitting a laser light engine into an existing xenon projector will be considered as a major upgrade, whereas replacing a lamp before selling a second-hand projector will not. If the equipment sold is not a laser projector produced after 2015 and was not upgraded in any significant way, it will not be considered as “placed on the market” and only workplace safety rules will apply, with a focus on the new owner.

What about the equipment already installed?

There is no legal obligation to recertify existing installations, but it is recommended.

What about workplace safety requirements?

It’s worth remembering that occupational health and safety regulations require product owners to respect safe use instructions, regardless of how units are sold or the applicable product safety legislation. In some countries, there is a legal requirement to enforce manufacturers’ safety specifications, independently of the risk analysis performed at the workplace. Moreover, for existing equipment moving within the same company, a risk assessment needs to be performed for the new location/setup of the product.

What about liability?

The manufacturer has the responsibility to make available updated safety rules for the product it produces. The product seller has the responsibility to share relevant safety information with the buyer. The owner must comply with the safety procedures and will bear all insurance and liability risks unless specified otherwise in a contractual agreement. According to the legal liability chain, end-users – in this case, cinema operators – will be the first to be considered liable in case of an accident.

What is the geographical scope of the new standards?

In Europe, the new rules apply to the members of CENELEC, which include EU Member States as well as the UK, the Republic of North Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey, Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland.

The new rules were enforced across the European Economic Area (EEA) from the moment one member state published the standards. This formal process is meant to ensure the free movement of goods across member states and the proper functioning of the single market.

For Norway, the implementation timeline will be slightly different than for other European territories, but the standards should apply in their current form.

For the UK, the CENELEC standards in their current form as British Standards Institution (BSI) standards and will apply until 2022. After that, the standards can be modified but cannot be less strict – the only way they can be updated is by making them more stringent than they currently are.

The CENELEC standards are not applicable to Russia.

In North America, the new standards are enforced but existing products certified to the legacy standards from 2015 cannot be subjected to a review.

Why do we need new standards?

Product safety standards are required to reflect the latest state of science. Therefore, TC108 decided to combine the existing IEC 60065 and IEC 60950-1 standards into IEC 62368-1, merging household and IT equipment standards into a single document. In addition, IEC 62368-1 applies a risk-based approach, whereas previous standards were focusing on outdated safety limits.

Can we review the standards?

Yes, but it would be almost impossible to make the existing standards less stringent. Reviewing the standards would require approval from relevant IEC technical committees as part of upcoming the revision of the standards by 2025, or as a corrigendum to the enforced standards. A reduction of the safety requirements would require scientific data. A similar review has been attempted in the past without success by the Laser Illuminated Projector Association (LIPA).

Can we create a universal Hazard Distance (HD) table?

There is no vendor-neutral distance table mapping the applicable Hazard Distance for any given projector. Such a table is not possible to create, as it would provide a too broad range which would create confusion for cinema operators and installers. Moreover, there are commercial considerations that come into play and make it challenging to try and produce such a document.

There are many variables that contribute to the HD, it is not only based on brightness but also influenced by the light source, the light pattern, and the hot spot distribution – among other factors. The HD depends on different parameters that are often unique to each projector model, such as projector chip size, type of lens, the spectrum of the emitted light, uniformity of the exit pupil, etc. It might be possible to create a set of graphs to help broadly assess the HD for any given projector, but there will still be instances where two similar projectors from two different manufacturers have a different HD.

Where can I find relevant safety information for any given projector?

Manufacturers have since the start of 2021 been updating their installation guides or safety manuals. These instructions can be found on manufacturers’ websites or can be shared upon request. Moreover, manufacturers have their own HD calculators.

Please find below a few non-exhaustive examples of existing documents and calculators that can be found online. Please bear in mind that the information made available may be updated from time to time, which is why creating a specific data repository could create inconsistencies in the data.

Who is in charge of verifying safety compliance at local level?

It varies from one territory to another, with different stakeholders involved depending on local rules and practices. Please reach out to local contacts for more information.

Where can I find information about future changes to relevant standards?

The EDCF, in close collaboration with other industry bodies such as UNIC, the ICTA, and LIPA, will work on improving communication around existing and upcoming standards that could be of relevance to the European cinema industry. The vast range and broad scope of the standards that have the potential to impact our sector make this a particularly challenging task.