Levelling the field
14 July 2016
The Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations 2016, also known as the EMF Regulations, have been published and came into force on 1 July 2016. Employers now need to be aware of a new requirement to carry out an EMF Risk Assessment, warns North East legislation analysts Cedrec.
Applying to England, Wales and Scotland, the EMF Regulations provide the minimum health and safety requirements regarding exposure of workers to the risks arising from electromagnetic fields.
Prior to the EMF Regulations, no legislation dealt with electromagnetic field exposure specifically, relying instead on measures under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the Management of the Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
The EU has for many years been trying to introduce legislation to address this, and the EMF Regulations have been drafted to implement Directive 2013/35/EU on the exposure of workers to the risk arising from physical agents (electromagnetic fields).
Types of occupational hazards at risk of electromagnetic fields include:
• nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometer
• engineering workshops
• rooftop antennas.
What do you need to do?
As employers, you must make sure employees are not exposed to electromagnetic fields levels greater than the exposure limit.
There are some exceptions to the limit, for example temporary circumstances and if protection measurements are updated as a result. Further exemptions apply to the military and to MRI equipment. Furthermore, the EMF Regulations do not apply to the master. Additionally, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are able to issue further exemptions.
Employers are required to provide health surveillance and medical examinations to staff that exceed the exposure limit values and report experiencing a health effect. Employers will also need to make and implement an action plan to ensure compliance with the exposure limitations, and also provide suitable risk assessments.
Guidance has also been released on the new EMF Regulations, HSG281 – Electromagnetic Fields at Work.
The guidance explains that “An EMF is produced whenever a piece of electrical or electronic equipment (i.e. TV, food mixer, computer, mobile phone etc.) is used.
EMFs are “present in virtually all workplaces and if they are of high enough intensity, you may need to take action to ensure your workers are protected from any adverse effects.”
Furthermore, the Guidance sets out examples of equipment in the varying lower classes of Exposure Limit Values (ELV), from no risk posed to low risk posed.
Richard Clarke, senior consultant at Cedrec, notes: "The Directive underpinning these Regulations had a troublesome route through the EU from its initial drafting in 2004, not least because there was some confusion and concern over exactly how we define and measure electromagnetic fields. What is clear is, now that the Regulations are with us, most businesses will have some degree of assessment necessary to fully ensure they meet their legal obligations under this requirement.
"One area that we feel may cause some confusion is that the requirements relate only to short term exposure risks to electromagnetic fields, and do not address any longer term risks, not least of all because we still do not fully understand these risks. Many employers may face confusion and objection from workers over possible longer term risks, as the media have in the past carried so much information about this, for example mobile phone masts. So at the very least, there may be a need to fully explain to employees what precisely the risks this new Regulation is seeking to control."