FAQs – Electromagnetic Fields at Work

 What is the Electromagnetic Fields Directive?

On 29 June 2013, the European Union (EU) issued the Electromagnetic Fields Directive (2013/35/EU) and gave member states three years to implement it as law. Under Article 16 of directive, it stated that “Member States shall bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with this Directive by 1st July 2016”.

 Who does the Electromagnetic Fields Directive apply to?

This directive applies to all workplaces within the EU member states, including the United Kingdom as they were a member state at the point of implementation of the regulation.

 How is this directive brought into force?

A European Union directive is a legislative act that sets out a goal that all EU countries must achieve. However, it is up to the individual countries to devise their own laws on how to reach these goals.

Within the UK:

Within other EU member states, it is possible that this EU directive has been implemented both in different ways and at different times, albeit that the date of 1 July 2016 was the ultimate deadline for implementation. Magnaflux EMEA recommends that if you have questions on the implementation of this directive for your country, you contact your country’s Health and Safety Regulator.

 What are The Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations (2016)?

To summarise: the Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations (2016) are the United Kingdom’s regulatory implementation of the Electromagnetic Fields Directive (2013/35/EU).

 What do The Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations (2016) apply to?

Every day, we are surrounded by electronic devices that produce electromagnetic fields. The vast majority of these are well below safe levels, but this new law has been introduced to provide additional controls for those devices that pose a higher risk.

For the majority of workplaces, no further action will be required. Where higher risk equipment is being used, these regulations will require employers to take further action to reduce the exposure to electromagnetic fields, in the form of a risk assessment and the implementation of suitable control measures.

Up until 1 July 2016, the risk of electromagnetic fields (EMF) was managed through existing legislation – mainly the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations. Whilst existing legislation covered some requirements which were non-binding, the EMF Directive introduced new responsibilities for employers, most notably the requirement to assess the levels of EMF to which their workers may be exposed against a set of specific thresholds. The new regulations deal with those responsibilities that go beyond the existing laws already in place.

 When did this regulation come into effect?

Within the United Kingdom, The Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations (2016) came into force on 1 July 2016, in accordance with the requirements of the EU directive.

For other EU member states, the precise details associated with its implementation are unknown. However, 1 July 2016 represented the latest date by which an EU member state could implement local regulation to meet the goals of the directive.

 What is an Electromagnetic Field (EMF)?

Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs) are static electric, static magnetic and time-varying electric, magnetic and electromagnetic (radio wave) fields with frequencies up to 300 GHz. An EMF is produced whenever a piece of electrical or electronic equipment (i.e. TV, food mixer, computer, mobile phone, etc.) is used. With the vast amount of technology around us today, EMFs are ever-present and, if they are of high enough intensity, employers may need to take action to ensure that workers are protected from any adverse effects.

 Is Magnetic Particle Inspection is covered by this regulation?

Magnetic Particle Testing (MT)/Magnetic Particle Inspection (MPI) is a non-destructive testing method for detecting discontinuities that are primarily linear and located at or near the surface of ferromagnetic components and structures. Ferromagnetic materials – such as iron, nickel and cobalt – are strongly attracted to a magnet and can easily be magnetised.

This testing method is based on the principle that magnetic flux in a magnetised object is locally distorted by the presence of a discontinuity. This distortion causes some of the magnetic field to exit and re-enter the test object at the discontinuity. This phenomenon is called magnetic flux leakage. The flux leakage field attracts the added magnetic particles and they will produce a visible indication of the discontinuity.

As such, Magnaflux EMEA equipment that is used to for the purpose of Magnetic Particle Inspection does come under this regulation. This equipment includes magnetic yokes, magnetising coils, bench units and mobile test units.

 What are the health effects of exposure to EMFs?

EMFs at different frequencies affect the human body in different ways, causing sensory and health effects. Sensory effects may include nausea, vertigo, a metallic taste in the mouth, flickering sensations in peripheral vision and auditory effects such as clicks and buzzes. Health effects can vary from tingling, thermal stress, and even burns in extreme cases.

Indirect effects can also occur, for example, when a magnetic object moves uncontrolled towards a magnet, potentially hitting anyone or anything in its way. Indirect effects may also include interference with body-worn or implanted medical devices, such as pacemakers and hearing aids.

 What is the effect of field frequency and is this important?

Under the regulations, field frequencies are divided into a number of different ranges, namely:

  • Static electric and static magnetic fields: 0-1 Hz
  • Low frequency magnetic and electric fields: 1 Hz – 10 MHz
  • Intermediate frequency fields: 10 kHz – 100 MHz
  • High frequency fields: 100 kHz – 300 GHz

With increasing field frequency, the level of effect – indirect, sensory and health effects – becomes more intense. What this means is that the level of risk increases as the field strength increases.

More information on this can be found in the HSE guidance.

 What are the legal requirements?

The Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations (2016) regulations require employers to assess the levels of EMFs their employees may be exposed to, and to:

  • Ensure that exposure is below a set of Exposure Limit Values (ELVs).
  • When appropriate, assess the risks of employees’ exposure and eliminate or minimise those risks. The employer must ensure that workers at particular risk, such as expectant mothers and workers with implanted or body-worn medical devices, are taken into account.
  • When appropriate, devise and implement an action plan to ensure compliance with the exposure limits.
  • Provide information and training on the particular risks, if any, posed to employees by EMFs in the workplace, and details of any action taken to remove or control them.
  • Take action if employees are exposed to EMFs in excess of the ELVs.
  • Provide health surveillance as appropriate.
 Is MPI magnetising equipment in the category that may exceed ELVs?

Yes, examples of equipment that may exceed the Exposure Limit Values (ELVs) include:

  • Broadcast & telecoms base stations, inside the operator’s designated exclusion zone.
  • Dielectric heating and welding.
  • Electrically powered trains and trams.
  • Furnaces, arc and induction melting.
  • Induction heating.
  • Induction soldering.
  • Industrial electrolysis.
  • Industrial magnetiser and demagnetisers e.g. tape erasers.
  • Magnetic particle inspection.
  • Maintenance of radar or high powered communications systems.
  • Medical diagnostic and treatment equipment using EMFs, e.g. diathermy and transcranial magnetic stimulation.
  • Microwave heating and drying.
  • MRI equipment.
  • Radar – air traffic control, weather and long range.
  • Radio and TV broadcasting systems and devices.
  • Radio frequency or microwave energised lighting equipment.
  • Resistance welding, manual spot and seam welding.
 What is the field frequency for the magnetising equipment manufactured and supplied by Magnaflux?

All electromagnetic equipment manufactured and supplied by Magnaflux is operated at the power supply frequency. Normally this is 50 Hz but, in the case of Saudi Arabia, this is 60 Hz. This field frequency sits in the range classified as ‘low frequency magnetic and electric fields’.

 We use Magnaflux magnetising equipment; what must we do?

You must assess the potential level of EMFs your workers may be exposed to. This is the first step in your assessment of any possible risks to your employees from EMFs.

The risk assessment must include, as relevant, consideration of:

  • The Expose Limit Values (ELVs) and Action Levels (ALs).
  • The frequency of the EMFs, level, duration and type of exposure, including the distribution over the employee’s body and the variations between areas in the workplace.
  • Direct effects.
  • The existence of replacement equipment designed to reduce the level of exposure to EMFs.
  • Information obtained from any appropriate health surveillance undertaken.
  • Information available from the manufacturer of relevant equipment.
  • Other health and safety related information.
  • Multiple sources of exposure.
  • Indirect effects.
  • Workers at particular risk.
  • Simultaneous exposure to multiple frequency fields.

This assessment should then be documented, controls implemented, communicated, and regularly reviewed, as with any other risk assessment.

Simple measures to reduce exposure may be the easiest way to ensure that exposure is beneath the relevant ELV. Examples could include moving the worker further away from the EMF source, or installing screening. If, however, more controls are required, then an action plan will be needed. This, in essence, is a safe system of work that identifies:

  • the choice of equipment producing less intense EMFs;
  • use of physical screening or similar health protection mechanisms;
  • use of signage, access controls and floor markings;
  • maintenance arrangements;
  • supervision and management;
  • training requirements;
  • health surveillance;
  • personal protective equipment.
 Where can I find information on the Exposure Limit Values and Action Levels?

Exposure Limit Values (ELVs) and Action Levels (ALs) are described within Annex II and Annex III of the EU Electromagnetic Fields Directive (2013/35/EU).

 Why is there a need to measure electromagnetic field strength?

Measurement of electromagnetic field strength determines whether the ELVs and ALs are being adhered to.

 Is it necessary to ensure that measurements are carried out to certain standards?

Yes, with any such measurement it is important to use measurement devices that are calibrated against the required standards, and that this calibration is traceable to these standards. Information on the calibration and traceability should be checked with either the service provider or with the manufacturer of the measurement device.

 What is the difference between a monitor and a meter?

A personal monitor is worn on the body and will typically give a visual and audible warning when the field strength approaches the permitted ELV. Some companies provide a monitor to protect those staff that will be exposed to electromagnetic fields. Data log functions can record the level of exposure.

Meters are used to obtain overall or detailed results and can be used to assess equipment in use to determine the ELVs and safe working distances.

 How do I determine the Action Levels when using Magnaflux magnetising equipment?

Guidance on the Action Levels is given in Table AL2 on page 10 of ‘The Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations 2016‘.

 Will I need to use an external specialist to complete my exposure assessment of MPI magnetising equipment?

Yes, measurements or calculations will be needed for MPI magnetising equipment, on account of this equipment potentially being in the category of exceeding the ELV.

 Can Magnaflux measure the levels of EMF in our workplace?

No, we are not in a position to do this for the following reasons:

  • The assessments must be actioned by the employer, because the level of EMFs is locally dependent upon factors including:
    • The type of the equipment being used.
    • The proximity of an employee to the source of the EMF.
    • The length of exposure to the EMF.
    • Whether or not the employee has any health conditions that might be affected by exposure to EMF’s.
  • The EMF measurements must be carried out by a competent person or company that has the equipment, resources and expertise to carry out the required measurements.
 Does Magnaflux provide any data to support my workplace assessment?

Yes; for all of our magnetising equipment we make the following health and safety general recommendations:

  • Danger to life for persons with cardiac pacemakers. Magnetic fields can, in some cases, interfere with cardiac pacemakers. If you wear a pacemaker, you must get a clearance certificate from your doctor before using this equipment.
  • DANGER OF ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELDS. Strong magnetic fields can have serious health effects. DO NOT USE THIS EQUIPMENT:
    • If you have a pacemaker, insulin pump or other implanted device.
    • If you have any metallic implants.
    • If you are pregnant.
    • For more than 8 hours a day.

If you have any specific queries or questions on this, please email support.eu@magnaflux.com.

 If I want to carry out my own measurements, can Magnaflux recommend a measurement meter?

No; we recommend that you search online for a manufacturer/supplier. For the purpose of testing carried out by Magnaflux, a Narda meter was used.

 Where can I find more information on these regulations?

Credit: grateful thanks to Jonathan Hughes, head of training and litigation at Capita Health and Safety.

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