Occupational health

1. A patient asked me if he runs a risk at his factory. He works at least 6 hours a week in an area near (i.e. within 8 meters) a 150 kV cable. Could you help me advise this patient?

To answer your question, it is helpful to know more about the field intensity levels to which your patient is exposed.

Concerning health effects and EMF exposure, the debate is still open. But several reports of experts published, in the last few years, indicate that current data do not support an association between exposure and risk of cancer in adults.

We invite you to visit EMF & Health: Current outcomes for an overview of the most recent conclusions. See also the IARC monograph, which evaluated the carcinogenic risks of electromagnetic fields in humans.

For questions other than those related to cancer, such as neuro-degenerative disorders, sleep disorders, headache, there are still very few answers.

2. We work in the vicinity of a 15 kV transformer station and from time to time, our cathode-ray computer monitors flicker. We are upset about the effects on our health, especially as our employer does not accept to take any measurements. It there a law to force him to take them?

Only the occupational physician or the safety coordinator are qualified to deal with this kind of problem. These persons could make a risk analysis and ask a lab to make measurements. If these persons are unable to help you, you can contact the labour inspection of your country. In Belgium, you will find further information here (only Dutch or French language).

A European directive exists that limits the occupational exposure to EMF (See Directive 2013/35/EU). Since June 2016, a Royal Decree transposes into Belgian law the European directive: See information in Belgian legislation.

3. In our metallurgy sector, we use electric blasting furnaces that produce magnetic fields. Should we protect ourselves from them?

It is obvious that induction furnaces can lead to relatively high exposure to magnetic fields. Thus, it is necessary to make a risk analysis and measurement of electric and magnetic fields in order to comply with exposure limits defined in 2013/35/EU directive. This European directive intends to limit the exposure of workers to these fields and is transposed into Member States’ national law: see for example the Belgian Royal Decree in Belgian legislation.

4. What kind of equipment should be placed to protect workers against high electromagnetic fields from high voltage lines ?

In a working environment with high electromagnetic fields, workers have to address their inquiries to the Health and Safety Dept of their company. This department will perform a risk analysis of the workplace and provide an appropriate action plan, if needed.

Documents & Links

  • 2013/35/EU directive of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 on the minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents (electromagnetic fields).
  • Studiedag Elektromagnetische Velden. Belgian Society for Occupational Hygiene, 2014 (in French and in Dutch).
  • Non-ionizing radiation: Belgian Society for Occupational Hygiene.
  • WHO EMF project: Fact and information sheets involving electromagnetic fields and public health and EMF world wide standards.
  • Pages on Standards of the BBEMG website.