The deadline is approaching. All EU member states must implement Directive 2013/35/EU, known as the EMF Directive, in their national laws by 1st July 2016. This means that employers face new challenges: They must make a risk assessment for every place of work and document the results. There was thus keen anticipation for the supplementary guidelines from the EU Commission that has come into force by the end of 2015. However, the “minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents (electromagnetic fields)” – as in the original title of the Directive – have been in force since it was published, so employers need to get busy with this.
Directive 2013/35/EU, published on 29th June 2013, is not just a replacement for the previous Directive 2004/40/EC. It also replaces national regulations, because one aim of the EU is to unify workplace health and safety practices in order to minimize distortion of competition between the member states. In Germany, for example, the EMF Directive will be implemented through a new health and safety regulation, which will abolish the old familiar accident prevention regulation BGV B11, now known as DGUV 15. The contents of the Guidelines are incorporated into a technical regulation that replaces the performance regulations BGR B11, currently DGUV Rule 103-013.
Exposure level values and action levels
Among the new points in the EMF Directive are the exposure level values in the lower frequency range up to 10 MHz, which are primarily based on the recommendations of ICNIRP (International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection) from 2010, whereas the previous Directive 2004/40EC was based on the ICNIRP recommendations of 1998. The limits for electric field strengths have also been tightened to some extent. In contrast, the permissible values for magnetic fields in the low frequency range are much more generous. The latest research and scientific knowledge has led the ICNIRP to adjust its limit value recommendations.