The Commission wants to improve rules to protect workers from electromagnetic fields

The proposal presented by the Commission would replace the current Directive (2004/40/EC) and it is aimed to revamp rules to protect EU workers from harmful electromagnetic fields. More specifically, this proposal is aimed to protect workers like doctors and nurses giving patients magnetic resonance imaging scans (MRI), people working with radar, welders and workers reparing power lines.

The proposal, which now has to be approved by the Council and the European Parliament, clarifies the definitions on adverse effects on health, introduces 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 intended to facilitate the work of the employers when carrying out the risk assessments required by law.

In addition, this updated rule would foresee specific provisions for workers who wear an Active Implantable Medical Device (AIMD), such as a a pacemaker, and for pregnant women, who are considered to be especially at risk and need special protection. In the case of a worker maintaining high tension lines, for example, the proposal would require the employer to evaluate the risks of exposure to electromagnetic fields and take measures to reduce them. This could vary from increasing the distance, to reducing the intensity, limiting exposure time, etc.

The aim of the proposal is to balance the protection of workers' health and safety with appropriate flexibility and proportionality so as not to unduly hamper the use and development of industrial and medical activities. However, it 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/EEC for the general public and specific legislation in each Member State.