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Agreement on EU Directive to protect workers in contact with Electromagnetic Fields (EMF)

28.03.2013, 16:46 GMT

The Irish Presidency has secured an important agreement on a Directive protecting workers from potential risks associated with electromagnetic fields. The adoption of this Directive is a high priority for the Irish Presidency in the area of labour law and forms part of the Presidency programme.

Agreement was reached at a trilogue between the Council of the EU, the European Parliament and the European Commission on Tuesday, 26th March. The updated Directive provides for health and safety requirements in relation to the possible exposure of workers to the risks arising from electromagnetic fields.

Ministers had previously agreed the general policy approach in Council last October under the Cyprus Presidency. As Presidency, Ireland is leading the final negotiations with the European Parliament and the EU Commission on the final shape and content of the Directive.

The Directive contains technical annexes setting out the Exposure Limit Values. Member States have the option of maintaining or adopting more favourable provisions for the protection of workers, in particular the fixing of lower values for the “Action Levels” or the “Exposure Limit Values” for electromagnetic fields.  The Directive addresses the protection of workers exposed to electromagnetic fields and the carrying out of effective and efficient risk assessments, proportional to the situation encountered at the workplace. In addition, it also defines a protection system that graduates the level of risk in a simple and easily understandable way and commits the European Commission to producing practical guidelines to assist employers in meeting their obligations under the Directive.

The technical detail in this replacement Directive adopts the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) guidelines for exposure limit values.

After the entry into force of the previous EMF Directive in 2004 serious concerns were expressed by stakeholders, in particular from the medical community, as to the potential impact of the implementation of that Directive on the use of medical procedures based on medical imaging (e.g. MRI scanning). Concerns were also expressed as to the impact of the Directive on certain industrial activities.  The present Directive addresses those concerns in a balanced way and is intended not only to ensure the health and safety of each worker on an individual basis, but also to create a minimum basis of protection for all EU workers, while reducing possible distortions of competition.

The next step is for the Directive to be examined to ensure that its legal texts are harmonised with the existing EU Workplace Health & Safety legislation. It is hoped that the Directive will be transposed into national law by all Member States by July 2016 at the latest.


Read the Presidency programme.

Notes to Editors

This Directive, which augments the existing overarching “Framework” Directive on Worker Health & Safety, includes specific provisions relating to:

  • Exposure limit values, orientation values and action values
  • Determination of exposure and assessment of risks
  • Provisions aimed at avoiding or reducing risks
  • Worker information and training
  • Consultation and Participation of Workers
  • Health surveillance
  • Sanctions
  • Technical amendments of the Annexes
  • Practical guide
  • Review and reporting

The Directives technical Annexes address:

  • Physical quantities regarding the exposure to electromagnetic fields
  • Exposure limit values and action levels in the frequency range from 0 Hz to 10 MHz
  • Exposure limit values and action levels in the frequency range from 100 KHz to 300 GHz
  • Specific measures for activities falling under Article 3(4)
  • Correlation table

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Cian Connaughton, Media Enquiries




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