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New Regulations for the Control of Electromagnetic Fields come into force.

The Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations 2016 comes into force on 1st July 2016, how will this impact on UK business?

Firstly we need to understand what Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) are and how they occur in the workplace

EMF is a physical field produced by electrically charged objects. It affects the behaviour of charged objects in the vicinity of the field. The electromagnetic field extends indefinitely throughout space and describes the electromagnetic interaction. It is one of the four fundamental forces of nature

A EMF is produce every time we turn on an electrical device, and in typical industrial settings can vary from 1 – 300 GHZ, therefore we are all likely to be exposed to it at some point.

Depending on the electrical frequencies, power and duration, exposure can cause several recognisable health effects including, direct physical effects vary from tingling sensations, heat stress and even burns in extreme cases, sensory effects e.g. nausea, vertigo, visual disturbance and hearing effects.

Consequently, standards have been developed on what levels of exposure can be permitted while ensuring the health and safety of those effected. These have been in operation for several years on a non-statutory basis.  In June 2013 the EU issued the Electromagnetic Fields Directive that sought to introduce statutory regulation of EMF within each Member State by July 2016. 

The Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations 2016, implement the requirements of the EU Directive in the UK, and require employers to assess EMF risks in their workplaces and take action the prevent exposure above certain proscribed limits, and otherwise to reduce exposure as far as practicable, specifically to

•    Ensure that exposure is below a set of Exposure Limit Values (ELVs)
•    When appropriate, assess the risks of employees’ exposure and eliminate or minimise those risks.
•    Ensure take workers at particular risk, such as expectant mothers and workers with active or passive implanted or body worn medical devices, are into account
•    When appropriate, devise and implement an action plan to ensure compliance with the exposure limits
•    Provide information and training on the particular risks, if any, posed to employees by EMFs in the workplace and details of any action taken to remove or control them
•    Take action if employees are exposed to EMFs in excess of the ELVs
•    Provide health surveillance as appropriate.

While it is thought that the majority of equipment in use in the average workplace will not exceed the ELV’s, the following of examples of equipment or process where this might occur

•    Broadcast & telecoms base stations, inside the operator’s designated exclusion zone
•    Dielectric heating and welding
•    Electrically powered trains and trams
•    Furnaces, arc and induction melting
•    Induction heating
•    Induction soldering
•    Industrial electrolysis
•    Industrial magnetiser and demagnetisers e.g. tape erasers
•    Magnetic particle inspection (crack detection)
•    Maintenance of radar or high-powered communications systems
•    Medical diagnostic and treatment equipment using EMFs
•    Microwave heating and drying
•    MRI equipment
•    Radar – air traffic control, weather & long range
•    Radio and TV broadcasting systems and devices
•    Radio frequency or microwave energised lighting equipment
•    Resistance welding, manual, spot and seam welding

Employers must assist these risks and determine appropriate controls that could include measures such as

•    Moving the worker further away from the EMF source,
•    Selecting equipment that produces less intense EMFs;
•    The use of physical screening or similar health protection mechanisms;
•    The use of signage, access controls and floor markings; maintenance arrangements; supervision and management; training requirements; health surveillance and personal protective equipment etc

Further information is available from the Health and Safety Executive website, including a new guide – HSG281

Pernix Safety Management - Director – Alan Hurst C.M.I.O.S.H
Registered Office – Peterborough, Cambs, PE3 6FB
Contact 01733 331300 / 07597 793 626 enquiries@pernix-safety.co.uk