Electromagnetic fields

What are EMFs?

An EMF is produced whenever a piece of electrical or electronic equipment (ie TV, food mixer, computer mobile phone etc.) is used. 

EMFs are static electric, static magnetic and time-varying electric, magnetic and electromagnetic (radio wave) fields with frequencies up to 300 GHz.

EMFs are present in virtually all workplaces and if they are of high enough intensity, an employer may need to take action to ensure employees are protected from any adverse effects.

What are their effects?

Exposure to high levels of EMFs can give rise to effects that may be irritating or unpleasant.

The effects that occur depend on the frequency range and intensity of the EMFs to which an employee is exposed.

Low frequency and high frequency EMFs affect the human body in different ways. However between frequencies of 100 kHz and 10 MHz both effects may occur.

In reality, these effects are extremely rare and will not occur in most day-to-day work situations. In the UK, within those sectors with significant exposure to EMFs, notably the health care sector, energy distribution, engineering, broadcasting, transport and telecommunications, the risks are generally well understood and well-managed.

In recent years, many different countries have undertaken research, measuring and investigating EMF levels in the environment. There is currently no well-established scientific evidence of long-term effects

More information on the effects of EMF can be found in A guide to the Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations 2016 (HSG 281).

The Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations 2016

The Control of Electronic Fields at Work Regulations 2016 transpose the requirements of European Commission Directive 2013/35/EU. This Directive lays down the minimum requirements for the protection of employees from risks to their health and safety arising, or likely to arise, from exposure to electromagnetic fields.

These Regulations, often abbreviated to CEMFAW Regulations place duties on employers to assess an employees' potential exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) with reference to action levels (ALs) and exposure limit values (ELVs).

Employers as part of managing the health and safety of their business already need to control the risks in the workplace. This is a requirement under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSW). Employers need to think about what might cause harm to people and take reasonable steps to prevent harm – this includes considering any risks arising from exposure to EMFs.

The majority of employers will not need to take any additional action to reduce the risk from EMF. This is because either:

  • the levels of EMF in most workplaces are already at safe levels, and/or;
  • in workplaces where employees may be exposed to higher levels of EMFs, the levels and associated risks will already have been assessed and managed

More information on the CEMFAW Regulations and what an employer's responsibilities are.

A guide to the Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations 2016 (HSG 281)

A guide to the Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations 2016 (HSG 281) aims to help employers understand and meet the requirements of the CEMFAW Regulations. It will also be useful to others with responsibility for health and safety, ie employees and safety representatives.

The guide provides information on:

  • identifying sources of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) in your workplace;
  • assessing the exposure of employees to EMFs;
  • Action Levels (ALs) and Exposure Limit Values (ELVs);
  • deciding what, if anything, you may need to do to protect your employees from the risk arising from exposure to EMFs;
  • assessing and controlling any risks from EMFs in the workplace;
  • protecting employees at particular risk:
  • exemption from certain aspects of the CEMFAW Regulations; and
  • references and further reading.

Information about exemptions

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Updated 2021-03-26