If you own or operate a business that uses radio frequency equipment or high currents, then you’re required to ensure your workplace is safe for the employees in your company.
What are EMFs?
EMF stands for electromagnetic fields. These are present in everywhere in our modern technology-driven lives. Every time you use your cell phone, your computer, a microwave oven, etc. you’re exposed to EMFs. And our bodies naturally produce EMFs through electrical activity.
The issues we’re discussing here are electromagnetic fields that are produced by power lines, substations, electrical panels, and devices in the workplace such as welding equipment and other tools.
Why the concern with EMFs? Some studies have shown exposure to electromagnetic radiation, even at low levels, can cause health issues for humans. As a business operator, you’re responsible for the health and well-being of the people in your employ. In fact, there’s a legal requirement to check the workplace for harmful EMF exposure to keep employees safe from harm.
Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (NHSW), businesses are required to think about what can harm to humans and take steps to prevent harm.
Taking this further, there’s a regulation called the Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work (CEMFAW), which requires a business to assess all employees’ potential exposure to EMFs. The regulations provide a reference to action levels (ALs) and exposure limit values (ELVs).
Sources of Strong EMF Exposure in the Workplace
What tools, appliances, and equipment can cause harmful levels of exposure to EMFs? Let’s take a look:
- Arc (MIG, MAG, TIG, etc.) and Spot Welding
- MRI/NMR medical diagnostic equipment
- Industrial microwave ovens & microwave drying
- Handheld electric tools
- Induction heaters
- Dielectric heating (RF glue drying, plastic welding, etc.)
This is not an exhaustive list of tools, etc. that can release harmful levels of EMFs; however, it does give you an idea of what types of appliances, processes and tools can be problematic.
What are the Health Risks?
EMFs have been tired to prolonged exposure, which can affect body tissue and functions. In fact, EMFs have been shown to cause the body’s cells to vibrate and to heat up at high frequencies and/or oscillating magnetic fields. Think of what happens to food when you heat it up in the microwave. This is a similar process body cells may experience with prolonged EMF exposure.
This is a problem because EMFs can harm the body’s immune system, which in turn can make it difficult to fight off tumors and other forms of cancer. It can also affect the glands, brain, and the central nervous system, leading to physical and even psychological problems.
Who’s at Risk?
These regulations were put into effect to protect the general public and employees from high levels of EFM exposure. The law requires a business to assess electromagnetic fields in the workplace, which can be either a site survey or a standard risk assessment.
People most at risk of health issues include:
- Pregnant women and their unborn babies
- Employees who have a pacemaker
- Young or old employees
- People who have underlying health issues
What Are You Required to Do?
The CEMFAW Regulations require you to limit exposure to EMFs, so you’ll need to assess exposure levels, keep records and take corrective action in order to stay in compliance. Here’s what the law requires you to do:
- Assess employee exposure to EMFs & the level of their exposure.
- Make sure that exposure is well below the ELVs (Exposure Limit Values) set by the law.
- Create and implement an action plan with steps to ensure compliance with exposure limits.
- If a risk has been found, then take action to minimize or eliminate these risks. This includes taking into account those who have implanted or body-worn medical devices and expectant mothers.
- Provide information on EMFs and educate workers on the risks of exposure to EMFs in the workplace. Include the details of the action plan you’ve developed to minimize or eliminate exposure to electromagnetic fields. Make sure the information is also available to all safety representatives.
- Take action employees are exposed to EMFs over the ELVs.
- Be sure to provide health surveillance or medical examinations, as needed and appropriate to ensure workers are healthy and free from health issues caused by EMFs.
What to Look for in a Workplace EMF Inspector
Now you’re aware of the law, it’s time to consider hiring a professional workplace EMF inspector. What should you look for?
1). Look for a professional EMF inspector who surveys workplaces, preferably one who has been in the business for several years. Avoid those who have just recently begun providing this service. They may not have the required experience or could be scammers just out to take your money.
2). Be sure to hire a professional inspector who has been certified to do this type of work. Look for ISO 9001 certification.
3). Ask if the EMF inspector surveys business premises & type the same as your company.
4). Be sure to ask what kind of rate and payment plan they provide. Here, the rate may depend on the size of your business premises—this is normal.
5). Ask what their survey covers and what equipment they will use. Most inspectors use an EMF meter, looking for hot spots, “dirty electricity”, along with external and internal sources of EMFs.
6). It’s a good idea to also ask if they provide services to minimize or eliminate EMF sources. Some inspectors will provide this service, but not all, so it’s a good idea to ask.
EMFs have been shown to be harmful to humans, as a result, the law requires you to protect employees from EMF exposure. In order to be in compliance with the law, hire a professional EMF inspector who specializes in businesses. You and your employees will rest easier knowing your workplace is safe for everyone.