EMF and RF Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions about EMF and RF health and safety.

What are electromagnetic fields (EMF) and radio frequencies (RF)?

Electromagnetic fields are areas of moving electrical energy.

They can be naturally produced, such as during thunderstorms, or derived from human-made technologies. Radio waves and x-rays count as technology examples. We are exposed to EMFs on a daily basis. For example, using a mobile device or walking near power lines at a safe distance both expose you to human-produced EMFs. The primary area where EMF and RF can cause harm is in the Broadcast and Telecommunications sectors where potential harm can occur to workers if not properly controlled by the Employer or Landlord of the premises where EMF transmitters are located.

What are the control of electromagnetic field at work regulations?

The requirements of the The Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations 2016 placed on employers are to:

  • Assess the levels of EMFs and RFs to which employees may be exposed.
  • Ensure that exposure is below a set of ‘exposure limit values’ (ELVs).
  • When appropriate, devise and implement an action plan to ensure compliance within the exposure limits.
  • When appropriate, assess the risks of employees’ exposure and address those risks.
  • Focus on high-risk employees that are referred as ‘those at particular risk’, such as expectant mothers and workers with active or passive implanted or body worn medical devices.
  • Provision of information and training on the particular risks of EMFs and RFs in the workplace, and any actions taken to control the risk.
  • Taking action if employees are exposed to EMFs or RFs in excess of the ELVs.
  • Provision of health surveillance or medical examination when appropriate.

What are the legal requirements for EMF and RFs in the workplace?

The primary UK legislation for EMFs is The Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations 2016 (CEMFAW). EMF Regulations are considered part of broader workplace health and safety laws, so employers must adhere to their responsibilities outlined under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

The general approach is to undertake a risk assessment in conjunction with the published Guidance Note ‘A guide to the Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations 2016 HSG281’.

What are the different types of EMF and RF?

EMFs are typically grouped into one of two categories based on their frequency:

Non-ionising: low-level radiation which is thought to be harmless to people but is dependent on the frequency and power level. It is emitted from telecommunication and broadcast transmitters where there is the most potential risk to workers but appliances such as microwave ovens, computers, Wi-Fi routers and bluetooth devices also emit EMF’s which are low risk .

Ionising: high-level radiation which can, under certain circumstances, lead to cellular or DNA damage with prolonged exposure. Sources of ionising radiation include ultraviolet rays from the sun and X-rays from medical equipment.

What are the symptoms of exposure to EMFs?

Reported symptoms attributed to exposure to EMFs include:

  • Heating of the skin causing reddening and tingling sensation (extreme exposure)
  • Heart palpitations
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Headaches
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Lack of concentration or changes in memory

Which sectors are most at risk from EMFs?

Industries and sectors where exposure to higher intensity EMFs is more common include:

  • Healthcare
  • Transport
  • Telecommunications
  • Engineering
  • Broadcasting
  • Energy distribution

Who is at higher risk from exposure to EMFs and RFs?

Any employee who falls under one or more of these categories is considered to be at greater risk when working in proximity of EMFs and RFs:

  • Expectant mothers who have made your organisation aware of their pregnancy.
  • Employees who have the need for body-worn medical devices (BWMDs).
  • Employees wearing passive implanted medical devices (PIMDs).
  • Employees with active implanted medical devices (AIMDs).
  • Employees who have metal plates, artificial joints, pins or shrapnel.

Is there a requirement to undertake an EMF or RF training course?

The Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations 2016 (CEMFAW) requires Employers to provide information and training on the particular risks of EMFs and RFs in the workplace, and any actions taken to control the risk.

Many Broadcast and Telecommunication operators such as Arqiva and Cellnex insist that workers visiting their site must have an approved training course that meets the requirements of Masts and Towers Safety Group (MATS).