Frequently asked questions about EMF and RF health and safety.
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.
The requirements of the The Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations 2016 placed on employers are to:
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’.
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.
Reported symptoms attributed to exposure to EMFs include:
Industries and sectors where exposure to higher intensity EMFs is more common include:
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:
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).