Rules to further protect workers from electromagnetic fields, such as doctors and nurses who administer MRI scans, are being proposed by the European Commission.

The idea is to update a 2004 directive on the minimum health and safety requirements regarding workers’ exposure to risks arising from electromagnetic fields in their daily tasks.

The recommendation comes just weeks after a Council of Europe publication proposing a ban on the use of mobile phones and Wi-Fi internet applications in schools as these may cause brain cancer.

The CoE’s recommendation was played down by the EU, which insisted there was no scientific evidence connecting brain cancer with the use of mobile phone. However, it said certain technologies, like MRI scans, could pose a high risk for those working in their proximity for a long time.

With regard to consumer exposure to electromagnetic fields, the Commission will not be amending its rules, as in the case of mobile phones, antennas, microwave ovens or other electronic apparatus, because existing rules are deemed sufficient.

The proposed rules that will become effective in all 27 member states, once approved, put the onus on employers to ensure workers are given the maximum protection possible.

The Commission’s proposal clarifies the definitions on adverse effects on health, introduces an updated exposure limits system – frequencies recognised to have harmful effects on the human cardiovascular system or the central nervous system – and also a number of provisions intended to facilitate the work of employers when carrying out the risk assessments required by law.

Brussels is proposing the introduction of detailed provisions to ensure a proportionate approach and adequate preventive measures to reduce workers’ exposure.

The proposals require employers to give workers and their representatives the necessary information and training.

In the case of health workers administering MRI scans, the proposal requires appropriate good practices to be developed and disseminated to limit exposure.

With regard to those dealing with high tension power lines, the rules would require employers 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 or limiting exposure time.

The proposals foresee specific provisions for workers who wear an active implantable medical device, such as a pacemaker, and pregnant women, who are considered to be especially at risk and need special protection.

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