What are Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs)?

Where there is electricity, you will find electromagnetic fields (EMFs). The size of these fields depends on the power supplied by the equipment.

The Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work (CEMFAW) Regulations 2016 places duties on employers to assess exposure to electromagnetic fields, and then assess the resulting risks to staff.

What does this all mean, and what do you need to do to comply? Keep reading to find out.

What are EMFs?

An EMF is an invisible field of energy which is produced whenever a piece of electrical equipment or wireless device is used.

If EMFs are of a high enough intensity you may need to take action to protect your workers from any harmful effects.

What are the effects of exposure to EMFs?

The health and sensory effects from EMFs depend on the frequency of the radiation.

Below are some examples of the types of effects individuals could experience:

Health effects
  • Micro shocks
  • Nerve stimulation
  • Effects on the nervous system
  • Muscle contraction
  • Heart Arrhythmia
Sensory Effects
  • Nausea
  • Vertigo
  • Metallic taste in the mouth
  • Flickering sensations (Magnetophosphenes)

In addition, indirect effects are caused by the presence of an object in an EMF which may become the cause of a health and safety hazard. An example of this is interference with implanted or body-worn medical devices.

What are employers’ duties under CEMFAW 2016?

Under the CEMFAW Regulations 2016 employers are required to do the following:

  • Assess the EMF levels employees may be exposed to.
  • Ensure that exposure to EMFs is below the exposure limit values (ELVs), and that action is taken if employees are exposure to EMFs in excess of the ELVs.
  • Devise and implement an action plan to ensure compliance.
  • Provide suitable information and training to employees.
  • Provide health surveillance or medical examination as appropriate.

What should I do regarding EMFs?

Organisations with workers who are at particular risk of being affected by exposure to electromagnetic fields must ensure specific risk assessments are carried out. These include persons with medical implants (such as pacemakers, hips joints and metal plates) and pregnant workers.

Some industries are affected more than others; these include:

  • Welding and non-destructive testing processes
  • Induction and dielectric heating equipment
  • Electrical generation
  • Railways
  • Bakeries
  • Foundries
  • Healthcare (although MRI scanners are specifically exempted)
  • Production lines
  • Power generation
  • Factories

However, some sources of EMFs are so low that, apart from assessing the exposure levels, employers may not need to do anything further.

We are able to provide EMF risk assessments, guidance on the regulations and measurements. Click here for more information and contact us about how we can help you.

In addition, the HSE provides a document covering EMFs at work, including employer’s duties and how to assess employees’ potential exposure to EMFs.