Directive 2013/35/EU of the European Parliament and the of Council of 26 June 2013, also known as the EMF Directive, defines the minimum health and safety requirements for protecting workers from exposure to electromagnetic radiation. The directive encompasses all known biophysical effects and other effects caused by electromagnetic fields, focusing on the short-term effects of excessive electromagnetic radiation on employees. Directive 2013/35/EU details requirements for worker information and training, maintaining formal exposure and risk assessments, health surveillance and more. The directive covers a frequency range of 0 Hz – 300 GHz and is applicable to all occupational sectors; its exposure limit values and action levels are identical to, respectively, ICNIRP 2010 and ICNIRP 2009.
The directive covers two general levels of EMF exposure: sensory effects and health effects.
First Level: Sensory Effects
0 Hz – 10 MHz
At this lower level of exposure, workers experience transient issues with their senses and minor fluctuations in brain functions. One common side effect is magnetophosphenes, flashes of light that impair the person’s vision. The directive’s safety margins are such that workers should never experience these side effects, which are the byproduct of electromagnetic energy interfering with the central nervous system. The directive defines limits for these symptoms called Sensory Effects Exposure Level Values (ELVs).
Second Level: Health Effects
100 kHz – 300 GHz
The second, higher level of exposure directly threatens the health of personnel in the area by damaging their body and peripheral nervous system. This manifests as thermal heating that stimulates nerve and muscle tissue. The directive establishes limits for these symptoms called Health Effects ELVs.
To avoid workers being exposed to either level of radiation, the standard calls for action levels (ALs) to be adhered to, operational levels ideal for the workplace that are compliant with both of the ELVs. Preventative and protective measures must be taken once the lower ALs are exceeded.
The EMF Directive mandates that employers assess occupational hazards stemming from electromagnetic fields in the workplace and, if needed, determine the level of radiation the workers are exposed to. The following is a list of factors that should be considered during a risk assessment:
- Health Effect ELVs, Sensory Effect ELVs, ALs
- Frequency, level, duration and type of exposure, including distribution over the employee’s body and over the volume of the workplace
- Direct biophysical effects
- Effects on the health & safety of particularly at-risk employees, such as pregnant workers, those who wear passive or active implanted medical devices like cardiac pacemakers, and those who wear medical devices on the body like insulin pumps.
- Indirect effects
- Replacement equipment which could reduce exposure levels
- Multiple sources of exposure
- Simultaneous exposure to multiple frequency fields
- Provided by the manufacturer of the equipment
- Obtained from the health surveillance referred to in Article 8
- Relevant to health & safety in general that may be related
Worker Information & Training
Employers need to equip their employees with the information and training necessary to prevent and protect against EMF exposure, particularly concerning the following:
- Practices specified by the directive and applied in the workplace
- The concept of ELVs and ALs, as well as their values, associated possible risks and preventative measures
- The indirect effects of exposure
- The results of the exposure assessment
- How to recognize the adverse health effects of exposure and report them
- The possibility of transient symptoms and sensations related to effects in the central or peripheral nervous system
- The circumstances in which workers are entitled to health surveillance
- Safe working practices that minimize exposure risks
- Works at increased levels or risk (referenced before—pregnant, wearing medical devices, etc.)
Employers are required by the EU to make non-binding practical guides available to their employees relating to these issues:
Download 2013/35/EU PDF
Read Narda STS Application Note
- Determination of exposure, taking into account relevant EU or international standards, including:
- Calculation methods for the assessment of the ELVs
- Spatial averaging of external electric and magnetic fields
- Guidance for dealing with measurements and calculations uncertainties
- Guidance on demonstrating compliance in special types of non-uniform exposure in specific situations, based on well-established dosimetry
- The description of the ‘weighted peak method’ for the low frequency fields and of the ‘multifrequency fields summation’ for high frequency fields
- The conduct of the risk assessment and, wherever possible, the provision of simplified techniques, taking into account in particular the needs of SMEs
- Measures aimed at avoiding or reducing risks, including specific prevention measures depending on the level of exposure and the workplace characteristics
- The establishment of documented working procedures, as well as specific information and training measures for workers exposed to electromagnetic fields during MRI-related activities falling under Article 10(1)(a)
- The evaluation of exposures in the frequency range from 100 kHz to 10 MHz, where both thermal and nonthermal effects are to be considered
- The guidance on medical examinations and health surveillance to be provided by the employer in accordance with Article 8(2)