What regulations apply to human exposure to electromagnetic fields?

Share this article

Several pieces of legislation govern the exposure of the public and workers to electromagnetic fields: European Union recommendation 1999/19/EC, decree 2002-775, the Abeille law, directive 2013/35/EU and decree 2016-1074, which came into force on 1 January 2017.

Regulations governing public exposure to electromagnetic fields

1. Recommendation 1999/19/EC and its implementing decree 2002-775

Decree 2002-775 of 3rd of May 2002 defines the limit values for exposure to electromagnetic fields for the public entitled “basic restrictions” in the frequency range from 0 Hz to 300 GHz. These theoretical values can be verified in the environment by comparing measurement data with reference levels defined in such a way as to ensure that the effects of electromagnetic fields are managed.

These are mainly expressed in units of electric field; the Volt per meter (V/m), or in units of magnetic field; the Tesla (T), milliTesla (mT) or microTesla (µT).

2. The Abeille law, or law no. 2015-136

The Abeille law (French) of 9 February 2015 deals with the transparency of information and consultation when setting up or substantially modifying radioelectric installations. As part of the roll-out of digital technology in the region, users need to be informed:

Pictogramme d'un téléphone mobile

The specific absorption rate (SAR) to which they are exposed. The SAR must be indicated on all commercially available radio equipment.

Pictogramme d'une borne Wi-Fi

The method of activating and deactivating wireless Internet access on any radio equipment (must be explained in the user manual).

Pictogramme indiquant une zone Wi-Fi

WiFi access zones: establishments offering WiFi access to the public clearly indicate this by means of a pictogram at the entrance.

Pictogramme d'un bâtiment petite enfance

Establishments with children under the age of 3: the law prohibits continuous use of Wi-Fi and recommends turning it on only for educational activities that require it.

The monitoring role of the French National Frequencies Agency (ANFR)

ANFR has set up an electromagnetic field monitoring system for private individuals. It also provides public authorities with a map of radio transmitters, and informs them of atypical points identified each year. Atypical points are defined as “places where the level of exposure of the public to electromagnetic fields substantially exceeds the one observed on a national scale”.

Regulations on the exposure of workers to electromagnetic fields

European Directive 2013/35/EU of 26th of June 2013 and Decree 2016-1074, which came into force on 1st of January 2017 for all companies, define the rules for preventing risks related to the working environment. The decree sets out the exposure limit values (ELVs) and their transposition into measurable values in the working environment, the action trigger values (AVs). Employers are obliged to prevent the risks of exposure for their employees in order to comply with these regulations.

Exposure limit values (ELVs) and action values (AVs)

The decree sets exposure limit values according to the frequency bands in which radiating sources are emitted, from the static field (0 Hz) to 300 GHz. Exposure limit values are categorised according to the parts of the body that may be exposed: head, limbs, trunk and whole body. It categorises two types of occupational exposure limit values: exposure limit values for sensory effects and limit values for health effects.

Homme au travail regardant ses écrans d'ordinateur dans un centre hospitalier

The decree also defines the values triggering action (the benchmark for comparison when carrying out a risk assessment on a site) and sets out the actions to be taken to achieve compliance if necessary.

Decree makes compliance compulsory for all companies

An inventory of the sources present in the company and a risk assessment must be carried out. Equipment is subject to a documentary study, supplemented by measurements to check that exposure limit values are respected.

This makes it possible to put in place the appropriate risk prevention measures (signage, zoning at the workstation) and compliance measures when values exceed authorised thresholds (removal and protection procedures, etc.).

Transmission of the results from the source audit

The results of the assessment and audit of sources must be sent to the occupational physician and to the works council (or, alternatively, to the employee delegates). The Social and Economic Committee (CSE) is the point of contact for employees who may have questions or complaints about their exposure to radio frequencies in the company.

Special provisions laid down by law for certain categories of employees

Categories of workers identified as being “at risk” must be particularly far from sources of radiation.

  • For pregnant women : the regulations stipulate that the exposure of a pregnant woman exposed to electromagnetic fields at work must be kept as low as reasonably achievable, taking into account existing recommendations for good practice, and in all cases below the limit values for public exposure to electromagnetic fields.
  • For workers under the age of 18: the regulations provide to take account of existing recommendations for good practice and to keep exposure below the exposure limit values.
  • For wearers of medical implants: active medical devices worn close to the body (pacemakers, insulin pumps, etc.) can suffer electrical and/or electronic malfunctions when exposed to electric or magnetic fields, the intensity of which is sometimes below the exposure limits set for the general public. A few precautions should therefore be taken, such as keeping these people away from sources of static radiation. Passive implants (pins, plates, screws or stents) containing conductive materials can lead to heating of the tissues in contact with the implant. At the extreme, under the effect of intense static magnetic fields, there is a risk of the implant moving by attraction when the implant is ferromagnetic. The level of exposure must therefore be below the limit values for public exposure to electromagnetic fields.


Everything you need to know about electromagnetic fields, straight to your inbox