Consultation on the implementation of Directive 2013/35/EU on the minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents - electromagnetic fields (EMF)

About this consultation

This consultation (CD276) relates to implementation of Directive 2013/35/EU on the minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents (electromagnetic fields). The ‘EMF Directive’ is due to be transposed and implemented across all Member States by 1 July 2016. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is proposing new regulations to transpose this Directive and seeks comments on:

  • the consultation questions
  • the proposed transposition approach
  • the draft EMF guidance to support the new regulations
  • the initial Impact Assessment (IA) of the costs and benefits of the proposed changes

This consultation relates to regulations that will apply in England, Scotland and Wales. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment Northern Ireland will prepare proposals for implementing the Directive in Northern Ireland. It does not cover any work on the Directive being taken forward by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Background

The EMF Directive lays down minimum requirements for the protection of workers from risks to their health and safety arising, or likely to arise, from exposure to EMF. It covers EMFs with frequencies up to 300 gigahertz (GHz). The Directive requires that duty holders assess the levels of EMF to which their workers may be exposed against a set of specific thresholds. These are called Action Levels (ALs) and Exposure Limit Values (ELVs). Different frequency ranges have different ALs and ELVs. More information about ALs and ELVs can be found in the draft EMF guidance at Annex (i).

Overall the Directive aims to ensure that:

  • minimum standards for EMF safety are introduced across all Member States;
  • duty holders minimise the risks from EMF to which workers may be exposed; and
  • risks from EMF are controlled so all workers remain protected.

The consultation document goes on to explain that “the EMF Directive does not cover:

  • suggested long term effects to electromagnetic fields, since there is currently no well-established scientific evidence of a causal relationship.
  • risks resulting from contact with live conductors. This is covered by the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 (SI 635) in Great Britain).”

Proposed changes

HSE proposes to transpose into stand-alone regulations only the requirements of the Directive which go beyond or are more specific than those covered by existing UK legislation. CD276 explains that while existing legislation covers some requirements, the EMF Directive introduces new responsibilities for duty holders: most notably the requirement to assess the levels of EMF to which their workers may be exposed against a set of specific thresholds.

The EMF Directive contains three derogations from its exposure limit requirements. The regulations make use of these in the following way:

  • disapplying the exposure limits in relation to the use of MRI equipment, where certain conditions are satisfied;
  • allowing the use of an equivalent or more specific protection system for certain military premises and activities; and
  • allowing HSE to exempt employers from the exposure limits in relation to specific work activities, where certain conditions are satisfied.

Other requirements in the regulations such as the requirement to assess exposure, are unaffected by the exemptions. HSE will produce a list of activities/sectors where duty holders can use the general exemption providing they meet the necessary conditions.

Consultation questions

Have your say

Please send us your responses to the HSE consultation questions (listed below) or any other comments to consultation@iosh.co.uk by 19 November 2015.

Consultation questions:

1. Do you agree or disagree with the transposition approach proposed?
Agree/Disagree
If you disagree please state why?

2. Does the guidance at Annex (i) make it clear what your responsibilities as an employer are under the ‘The Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations 2016’?
Yes/No
If no how can this be improved?

3. Does the guidance at Annex (i) help you to find the information that you need to help you assess your workers’ potential exposure to EMFs?
Yes/No
If no how can this be improved?

4. Is it clear from the guidance at Annex (i) that measurement of EMF exposure levels will only be necessary in strictly limited circumstances?
Yes/No
If no how can this be improved?

5. HSE may exempt work activities from the exposure limits stated in these Regulations. Does the guidance at Annex (i) clearly explain when an exemption applies and the conditions that have to be met?
Yes/No
If no, how can this be improved?

6. Does your business involve a work activity in respect of which you may find it difficult to meet the exposure limits?
Yes/No
If yes what activity would this be?

7. Is there any additional information that you would like to see included in the guidance at Annex (i)?
Yes/No
If yes what would this be?

8. Do you have any comments on the draft ‘The Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations 2016’ at Annex (ii)?
Yes/No.
If yes please provide details.

9. Do you agree or disagree with the analysis in the impact assessment at Annex (iii)?
Agree/Disagree
Please state why?

10. Do you have any other comments to make on the impact assessment at Annex (iii)?
Yes/No
If yes please provide details

11. Are there any further comments you would like to make on the issues raised in this consultative document?

IOSH members wishing to also respond individually to the HSE can do so by here by 3 December 2015.