New legislation came into force on 1 July 2016 to protect workers from the effects of electromagnetic fields (EMF) in the workplace. In essence, the Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work (CEMFAW) Regulations 2016 are the transposition into UK law of EU Directive 2013/35/EU and the effect is to introduce, for the first time, mandatory limits on workers’ exposure to EMFs while they are engaged in their professional duties. These regulations do not cover the general public (see below).  The safety thresholds are based on long established limits for occupational situations issued by ICNIRP (International Committee on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection).

Working environments include:

  • MRI scanners
  • Electric railways
  • Power stations
  • Electrical distribution networks
  • Welding
  • RF environments (mobile phone base stations)
  • Heavy industrial sites

The CEMFAW Regulations require every employer to carry out an EMF risk assessment. In most cases, no further action will be necessary, but wherever an industrial process uses EMFs or where equipment operates at high voltage or current levels in excess of 100A, health-and-safety dutyholders may need to take additional steps in order to protect workers. Broadcast and telecommunications workplaces are other areas where strong fields occur routinely, but here the equipment is usually designed to generate external EMFs intentionally, so all major operators are well aware of the issue and have appropriate measures in place.

Away from the workplace, in public and residential areas, ICNIRP has issued guidance and limits to ensure that the general public is not at risk. These limits are significantly lower than those which apply for occupational situations.

Exposure limits
Employers must assess the levels of EMF to which their workers may be exposed. The regulations list a set of limits (ELVs, exposure Limit values) which should not be exceeded.  Action Levels (ALs) are also specified. These are lower than the ELVs but steps should be taken to reduce any fields that exceed these values. (eg, changing working practices, additional screening, reducing exposure time, etc…)

Click here for a table of the CEMFAW (2016) limit data.

Click here for a graphical presentation of the limit data.

Other standards

EN 50500   Measurement procedures for magnetic fields related to railway environments.

EN50505   Measurement procedures for EM radiation from welding and allied equipment.

EN62233   Measurement methods for assessing human exposure from household appliances.