Each business in the UK must manage the health and safety of their employees and the workplace. This is due to the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSW). It’s necessary to consider what could be harmful to the people that work for you and what steps need to be taken to make the work environment safer. This includes the possible exposure of people to EMFs in work areas. This type of assessment is usually done through an EMF site survey.
What are EMFs?
EMFs, which is the abbreviation for electromagnetic fields, are made when an electric and a magnetic field run perpendicular to one another. When combined in this way, they create an invisible wave form that we refer to as EMF radiation.
Every day we’re all exposed to both natural and man-made EMFs. In fact, the Earth, the sun and stars all emit EMFs, which is also referred to as galactic radiation. These are natural forms of EMF radiation.
Man-made sources of EMF radiation include radio waves, WiFi signals from routers, microwave radiation, and more. In fact, the device you’re using to read this article gives off EMFs—this includes computers, smartphones, tablets and more.
There are two different categories of EMFs:
- Low frequency: this type of EMF radiation has lower frequencies than visible light and are a form of radiation called non-ionizing. Many man-made forms of EMFs fall into this category including cell phones, Bluetooth, computers, visible light, power lines, MRIs, refrigerators, toasters, etc. Workplace tools also put off EMFs including welding equipment, RF heating, etc.
- High frequency EMFs: as the name suggests, these have a higher frequency than visible light and are ionizing radiation. Examples of EMF radiation in this category include X-rays, Gamma rays and UV (ultraviolet) light.
How Does This Affect Me?
Back in July 2016, the UK passed the CEMFAW Regulations (the Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations). The CEMFAW Regulations have introduced limits of EMF exposure in the workplace.
The ruling was passed due to the ongoing concerns of whether extremely low frequency (ELF) EMF exposure can cause health problems. Some researchers have found that long term exposure to high levels of EMFs can cause health issues, depending on the type of RF energy. Even at low frequencies, EMF exposure can cause changes in people’s central nervous system. On the other hand, high frequencies generally cause a heating effect; think of how food heats up in the microwave oven. This is similar to what can occur in a human, even raising body temperature.
What Industries Do the EMF Regulations Govern?
The regulations apply to all industries, but especially those that use welding, along with the consumer goods industry.
What’s my Responsibility as an Employer?
Under CEMFAW Regulations, you’re required to assess the levels of EMFs your employees are exposed to and then ensure that exposure is below the ELVs (Exposure Limit Values) set out in the regulations. It’s also a good idea to prepare and implement an action plan to ensure your business is in compliance with the exposure limits.
Once you assess the risk of employee exposure to EMFs, it will be necessary to minimize or eliminate these risks. You’ll also need to educate employees on the risks of EMF exposure and what they need to to stay safe. The details should also include what steps you, as the employer, are taking to minimize and eliminate sources of exposure.
Depending on the type of work employees do, it may also be beneficial to provide a health watch system or medical examinations to check for possible health issues caused by EMF exposure. Especially for employees that work in areas where they’ll be exposed to EMFs higher than the ELVs set by the regulations.
Hiring a Professional EMF Inspector
Unfortunately, EMFs are not something you can touch or see, which makes it almost impossible to conduct an assessment on your own. Specialized equipment is needed to detect and measure EMF levels.
If your business falls under the regulations, then it may be advisable to hire a professional EMF inspector. Not only will they have the knowledge and equipment to test/measure EMFs, they’ll also be able to offer guidance and advice on how to make your company compliant.
An EMF inspector will come to your business and conduct an on-site EMF survey. This includes taking readings using specialized equipment to measure EMFs in different locations. They’ll also look to see if utilities are carrying stray currents and ensure wiring is not faulty, etc.
The survey generally includes examining equipment, site layout, individual items of plant, perimeter surveys, etc.
Once the assessment is finished, a professional EMF inspector will provide you with a detailed report of the results, which should include where the risks are and who is most at risk. They’ll also offer advice on how to minimize or eliminate EMF exposure to make sure your business is compliant with the regulations. Some inspectors may also provide training for you and your employees on EMF exposure.
While it may seem a daunting task to get compliant with the CEMFAW Regulations, rather than trying to do the assessment on your own, hiring a professional EMF inspector will make the entire process easier. They’ll have the knowledge and the specialized tools to conduct the survey, ensuring you receive an accurate report on your company’s EMF levels. If your workplace isn’t in compliance, the EMF inspector will be able to offer next steps on how you can reduce EMF levels and become compliant.
You don’t have to do this on your own—a professional EMF inspector can provide the information, the tests and guidance needed to make sure your company’s in compliance with EMF level regulations.