Are you still not complying with the Electromagnetic fields at work?
New regulations came onto the Statute Books in 2016 that apply to ALL businesses regardless of size or type. They are “The Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations 2016.”
At last Thursday’s Free Health & Safety Event, Chris Walton, our trained adviser in this subject gave a short talk about employers’ duties. He also brought out one of his meters to demonstrate the levels of EMF being given off by such everyday items as mobile phones. Everyone was surprised at the levels recorded, especially those carrying two mobiles or those with metal body piercings!
So this week I thought that I should once again look at this subject as most companies appear to be unaware of their duties.
This week’s 2 recent HSE cases look at:
As ever, if you have a subject that you would like us to cover one week, please contact us by phone 01458 253682, email or via our Facebook page or by Twitter
Electromagnetic fields at work
A guide to the Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations 2016.
Employers have a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent harm in the workplace and this duty includes considering any risks arising from exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs).
This guidance looks at:
- the Legal Background,
- the effects of EMFs,
- what the law says you must do,
- who is at particular risk
The Legal Background
As part of managing the health and safety of your business, you already need to control the risks in your workplace under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSW); you need to think about what might cause harm to people and take reasonable steps to prevent harm – this includes considering any risks arising from exposure to EMFs.
The CEMFAW Regulations mean that you now have to assess employees’ potential exposure to EMFs with reference to action levels (ALs) and exposure limit values (ELVs).
The majority of employers will not need to take any additional action to reduce the risk from EMFs.
This is because either:
- the levels of EMFs in most workplaces are already at safe levels; or
- in workplaces where employees may be exposed to higher levels of EMFs, the levels and associated risks will already have been assessed and managed.
But you MUST have your workplace surveyed to assess the potential exposure risk.
Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and their effects
What is an EMF?
An EMF is produced whenever a piece of electrical or electronic equipment (e.g.TV, food mixer, computer, mobile phone etc.) is used.
EMFs are static electric, static magnetic and time-varying electric, magnetic and electromagnetic (radio wave) fields with frequencies up to 300 GHz.
EMFs are present in virtually all workplaces and if they are of high enough intensity, you may need to take action to make sure your workers are protected from any adverse effects.
Exposure to EMFs
Exposure to high levels of EMFs can give rise to effects that may be irritating or unpleasant. The effects that occur depend on the frequency range and intensity of the EMFs to which a worker is exposed.
What are the effects of exposure?
EMFs at different frequencies affect the human body in different ways, causing sensory and health effects; see Table 1. Indirect effects can also happen; indirect effects are caused by the presence of an object in an EMF which may become the cause of a health and safety hazard. One example would be the risk of injury from ferromagnetic objects in a large static magnetic field being attracted to the magnets and hitting anyone in the way. Table 1 provides examples of effects which may be produced by work activities and equipment in the different frequency ranges; in most cases, it will only be the highest power instances that may lead to effects being experienced.
Table 1 Examples of possible effects of EMFs in relation to work activities/equipment used
What the law says
The CEMFAW Regulations require you, as an employer, to:
- assess the levels of EMFs to which your employees may be exposed;
- ensure that exposure is below a set of ELVs, see ‘Exposure limit values’;
- when appropriate, devise and implement an action plan to ensure compliance with the exposure limits;
- when appropriate, assess the risks of employees’ exposure and eliminate or minimise those risks. You must make sure you take employees at particular risk, such as expectant mothers and workers with active or passive implanted or body-worn medical devices, into account. See ‘Employees at particular risk’;
- provide information and training on the particular risks (if any) posed to employees by EMFs in the workplace and details of any action you are taking to remove or control them. This information should also be made available to their safety representatives, as appropriate;
- take action if employees are exposed to EMFs in excess of the ELVs;
- provide health surveillance or medical examination, as appropriate.
The CEMFAW Regulations contain a schedule which introduces limits, explains the effects of EMFs and provides details of safety conditions which must be met.
The CEMFAW Regulations allow the sensory-effect ELVs to be exceeded when certain safety conditions stated in the schedule to the regulations are met.
In addition, exemptions to the exposure limits apply in the following circumstances:
- for any activity in respect of which a suitable and sufficient alternative exposure limitation system is in place and where the activity is carried out:
- by a person acting in the capacity of a member of either Her Majesty’s armed forces or a visiting force;
- by any civilian working with such a person; or
- on any premises or part of premises under the control of the Secretary of State for the purposes of the Ministry of Defence or the service authorities of a visiting force;
- during the development, testing, installation, use and maintenance of, or research related to, MRI equipment for patients in the health sector, where:
- the exposure of employees above the ELV is at the lowest level reasonably practicable; and
- employees are protected against the health effects and safety risks arising from their exposure to EMFs;
- if HSE has issued an exemption for your work activity and you meet the conditions of that exemption.
Summary of an employer’s duties relating to risk assessment
The majority of employers will not need to take any additional action to reduce the risk from EMFs as in most workplaces EMFs are already at safe levels. Where employees may be exposed to higher levels of EMFs, the levels and associated risks should already be assessed and managed under MHSW.
You should also be aware that you have responsibilities under MHSW regulation 11 to cooperate and coordinate with other employers to ensure the health and safety of all of your employees.
This includes considering the safety of others who are not directly employed by you but who are working on site, e.g. contractors; the responsibilities for such staff will depend on who, if anyone, is employing them.
EMFs in the workplace
Low-exposure work activities/equipment
Many sources of EMF in the workplace produce such low levels of EMFs that it is likely, other than assessing exposure to EMFs, the procedures you already have in place to manage risks will be sufficient to make sure workers are protected and to meet the requirements of the CEMFAW Regulations.
Employees at particular risk
You must give special consideration to the safety of employees at particular risk.
This includes employees who have informed you of any condition which could mean they are more susceptible to effects from EMF exposure (such as their wearing of active implanted medical devices (AIMDs), passive implanted medical devices (PIMDs) or body-worn medical devices (BWMDs) – For more information see below- or of their pregnancy and employees who work in close proximity to electro-explosive devices, explosive materials or flammable atmospheres.
EMF Exposure Assessment.
You must determine whether or not the exposure of employees to EMFs exceeds the ELVs. In order to determine that specific ELVs are not exceeded, you can assess exposure against the ALs.
Do I need to keep a record?
If you employ five or more employees you must keep a suitable record of:
- the significant findings from the most recent exposure assessment; and, where required:
- the most recent action plan;
- the significant findings of the most recent risk assessment.
Is there any subject you would like covered in this newsletter? Please contact us by phone 01458 253682, email