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New rules to protect EU workers from harmful electromagnetic fields

11 June 2013
by eub2 -- last modified 11 June 2013

The European Parliament on 11 June adopted a Commission proposal for a Directive to update and improve EU rules to protect workers from electromagnetic fields in their workplace.


The proposed Directive will clarify the definitions of adverse effects on health, introduce an updated exposure limits system (frequencies that are recognised as having harmful effects on the human cardiovascular system or the central nervous system), as well as a number of provisions to make it easier for employers to carry out the risk assessments required by law.

As employers are obliged to carry out risk evaluations, the proposal will introduce detailed provisions to ensure a proportionate approach as well as to ensure adequate preventive measures to reduce the exposure of workers to electromagnetic fields. The proposal will require employers to give exposed workers and their representatives the necessary information and training, particularly relating to the outcome of the risk assessment, the measures taken by the employer, safe working practices, the detection of adverse effects and the circumstances in which workers are entitled to health checks.

In the case of a worker maintaining high tension lines, for example, the proposal will require the employer to evaluate the risks of exposure to electromagnetic fields and take measures to reduce them. Such measures could include increasing the distance, reducing the intensity and limiting exposure time. For the medical magnetic resonance imaging sector (e.g. MRI scans), the proposal will require appropriate good practices to be developed and disseminated to limit the exposure of workers. For the armed forces, harmonised North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) norms for those working with radar will have to be applied in the Member States concerned.

The proposal also foresees specific provisions for workers who wear an Active Implantable Medical Device (AIMD) – like a pacemaker - and pregnant women, who are considered to be especially at risk and need special protection.

The proposal only covers workers during their professional activities. All other categories of people, such as consumers, phone users and passengers, are covered by the existing Council Recommendation 1999/519/EC for the general public and specific legislation in each Member State.

Next steps

The EU's Council of Ministers, which has already agreed to the text, is set to formally adopt the proposal on 20 June. Member States will have to implement the Directive in their national law by 1 July 2016.

Further information

European Parliament: Adopted text will be available here (click on 11.06.2013)

EC Health and Safety at work website

Source: European Commission