Electrosensitivity and recognition in the workplace

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Despite its newness, the issue of electrosensitivity or electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) has been a growing topic of social discussion for some time now. Recent legal developments have also put the issue of electrosensitivity and its recognition in the workplace back on the agenda.

Electrosensitivity and exposure to electromagnetic fields: what do we know?

Electromagnetic hypersensitivity is also known by its scientific term “idiopathic environmental intolerance to electromagnetic fields“. In France, electrosensitivity is not yet recognised as an illness in its own right, but the number of people claiming to suffer from it is growing. The latter report suffering from a variety of symptoms (headaches, fatigue, sleep disorders, bleeding, etc.) caused by the presence of sources of electromagnetic fields (base stations, mobile phones, high-voltage lines, WiFi, etc.).

Last March, ANSES ( French National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety) even published its expert report on electromagnetic hypersensitivity. In this report, she highlights the pain reported by EHS sufferers and attempts to understand the possible link with the sources of electromagnetic radiation that are most often blamed. In the end, the study failed to prove the existence of a real causal link between exposure to electromagnetic fields and the symptoms reported by the individuals concerned. Nevertheless, ANSES is continuing to conduct research to improve the treatment of EHS sufferers.

The subject of electrosensitivity has therefore featured on many occasions in the public debate, and has even recently been the subject of a first case of recognition by occupational medicine.

A first: recognition of electrosensitivity in the world of work

For the first time in France, the courts have recognised intolerance to electromagnetic fields as grounds for an accident at work. This decision was handed down last October by the Social Security Tribunal (TASS) in Yvelines, in the case of a man who fell ill at work. He appealed to the courts to have his illness, caused by exposure to electromagnetic fields, classified and recognised as an “accident at work”.

In January 2018, in another case, it was the Administrative Court of Cergy-Pontoise that recognised that the electromagnetic hypersensitivity contracted by a worker was indeed due to his professional activity.

These court rulings pave the way for another fifteen or so ongoing cases also relating to electrosensitivity (EHS). In most of these cases, the plaintiffs are calling for “better management of the syndrome” in the workplace, or for working conditions to be reorganised to take account of their situation and state of health.


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