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EMF Studies

21 February 2016

EU Directs Employers to Protect Workers from EMFs

"Employers must be informed about workers that could be at more risk from EMF exposure, notably those who have medical devices or are pregnant."

EU directs employers to protect workers from EMFs
gsma.com, 27 January 2016

New laws that require employers to protect their workers from exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) according to minimum safety requirements of the European Union Directive 2013/35/EU (pdf) will be mandatory from 1 July 2016.

The exposure limits and regulations for workers are based on the guidelines from the International Commission of Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (INCIRP) and since the Directive was passed in 2013, employers have had the last three years to prepare for the transposition into national law.

A practical guide to applying the Directive has been published by the EU to help employers understand how they need to assess the risks of EMF in their workplace.

“A practical guide has been prepared to assist employers, particularly small to medium sized enterprises, to understand what they will need to do to comply with the Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) Directive (2013/35/EU)” the guide said.

All employers must refer to this Directive to make an informed assessment of the exposure levels in their workplace. They should then utilise the guide to implement the Directive and ensure their workplace complies with the minimum health and safety requirements of the legislation.

The guide is designed to advise employers on exposure risk assessment in common work situations.

“Three columns indicate situations requiring specific assessments for workers with active implants, other workers at particular risk, and all workers. This table should help the majority of employers to establish that there are no risks from EMF in their workplaces,” the guide said.

Employers must also be informed about workers that could be at more risk from EMF exposure, notably those who have medical devices or are pregnant.

“Some workers may be at particular risk from electromagnetic fields. These workers include those wearing active implanted medical devices, those wearing passive medical devices, those using body-worn medical devices, and pregnant workers,” the guide continued.

In respect of routine health surveillance the guide says:

“Routine health surveillance of workers should be carried out if required by national law or practice. However, in the absence of known risks or symptoms from exposures to electromagnetic fields below the ELVs [exposure limit values] there is no basis for regular medical examinations. Surveillance may be justified on other grounds.”

For mobile operators, the guide specifically mentions “Base station antennas, inside operator’s designated exclusion zone” as areas where workers will be at an increased risk.

The Directive also highlights the need for employers to have someone in charge of these assessments within their business.

Paul Laidler, Business Director for Machinery Safety at TUV SUD Product Service said (pdf) for EMF, this means that suitable persons should be appointed with defined responsibilities for EMF safety, with their role summarised as follows:

- Completion of relevant training on EMF sources, measurement and calculation procedures.
- Comprehension of and access to the current EMF Directive, guidance and standards.
- Liaise with the employer/operator with regard to specific hazards for the site.
- Regular risk assessments, calculation and measurement using appropriate test equipment.
- Writing up of reports and records for employer/operator.
- Ensure safety controls are identified and applied correctly.
- Consult with other workers.
- Provide training in safe operation/maintenance of EMF sources where necessary for workers/visitors.
- Assist with EMF exposure incident investigations.

Accompanying the practical guide is a publication with twelve case studies of generic workplaces that show employers how to approach assessments and illustrate some of the preventive and protective measures that might be selected and implemented. There is also guide for SMEs on good practice in implementation.

The EMF Directive was agreed on in 2004, however delays occurred due to concerns raised by the medical community about potential negative impacts on the use and development of certain MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) (pdf) activities. In addition to this, wider concerns were also raised about the costs and complications of the risk assessments to employers.

In 2008 an interim Directive was adopted while the Commission and Member States tried to resolve the issues raised. This took some time, with the revised Directive, which includes a derogation for MRI, finally being agreed on 26 March 2013. The finalised Directive was published on 29 June 2013 and Member States are required to bring into force any laws, regulations and or administrative provisions needed to ensure they comply with the Directive by 1 July 2016.


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