EU 2004

In April 2004, the European Union adopted a Directive on occupational exposure to EMFs. This basically gives force to the ICNIRP exposure levels. The UK originally had until 2008 to bring it into UK law.

Because the levels in the Directive are the same as the ICNIRP 1998 occupational levels, they will pose no extra constraint on industries which already follow those. But it might require more by way of risk assessments, warning signs, information and training, etc.

The delay

In 2007, it became apparent that to implement the Directive rigorously would probably create unacceptable problems for Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).  So two new Directives were passed, in 2008 and 2012, extending the timescale for implementation by another four years, with the expectation that within that time the limits would be changed.

The values

The Directive uses the ICNIRP values but gives them different names.  The basic restriction becomes the Limit Value and the reference levels become the Action Values.  At 50 Hz:

Exposure Limit Value: 10 mA m-2 in the central nervous system
(identical to ICNIRP's basic restriction)
Magnetic fields
Electric fields

Action level: 500 µT
Field actually required: 1800 µT

Action level: 10 kV m-1
Field actually required: 46 kV m-1

These values are for 50 Hz - see here for the values at 60 Hz


The history of this Directive is roughly:

1992-4: First attempt to introduce a Directive, lapses

December 2002: draft text was issued of a European Directive on occupational exposure to EMFs. This was based round the same numbers as ICNIRP, but required different actions at those levels to ICNIRP which made it more onerous than ICNIRP. The HSE performed a Regulatory Impact Assessment of that initial proposal. It estimated the cost (expressed as the Ten Year Present Value) of the proposal as £567-1540M and concluded “the benefits of the current draft of the Directive would be very limited and are very heavily outweighed by the costs”

2003: The draft Directive was then debated in the Council Social Affairs Working party. In December 2003 the Commission and Council reached a Common Position which they passed to the Parliament’s Employment and Social Affairs Committee. The Common Position is very close to ICNIRP and would have little extra impact on countries or industries which already follow ICNIRP (or, in the UK, the NRPB Guidelines)

Late 2003/early 2004: Employment and Social Affairs Committee appointed Senor Alvarez as Rapporteur. He has produced a report including some proposed amendments. The main effect of the proposed amendment would be to extend to requirements for health surveillance. Other MEPs have also tabled amendments.

March 18 2004: The Committee debated the amendments and adopted five of them, rejecting the rest.

March 31 2004: The full European Parliament accepted these same five amendments.

April 2004: The Council accepted the Parliament amendments and the Directive passes into European law. The final version is published in the Official Journal.

December 2004: The Health and Safety Executive convene a working group to start considering how to bring the Directive into force in the UK.

October 2007: The European Commission announce a delay of four years in implementing the Directive. This is intended to allow time to revise the Directive and was prompted by the realisation that the existing Directive would restrict the future use of MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging).

2012: Further delay in implementation.

2013: Finally replaced by new 2013 Directive.

Please Note:

This 2004 Directive no longer applies - it has been superseded by the 2013 Directive