The Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations 2016

thumbnail flag UKThese Regulations implement in the UK the EU Directive of 2013 on occupational exposure.  They come into effect on 1 July 2016.  Like the EU Directive, the numerical values for low frequencies are based on ICNIRP 2010.

The numerical values


Sensory Effects

(central nervous system)

applies to head

Health Effects

(peripheral nervous system)

applies to whole body

Exposure Limit Value

140 mV/m peak

≈100 mV/m rms

Table ELV3

1100 mV/m peak

≈800 mV/m rms

Table ELV2

Action level

Low Action level

1 mT


10 kV/m

Tables AL1 and AL2

High Action level

6 mT

(18 mT for limbs only)

20 kV/m

Tables AL1 and AL2

These are the values for 50 Hz.

What protection do these limits give?

The main effects these limits are protecting against is that the external electric or magnetic field induces a smaller internal field in the body. That internal electric fields in the body can then interfere with nerves.

If you are below both the sensory and the health effects limits, there should be no direct effects on the body.  There may be indirect effects, either through microshocks or on implanted medical devices such as pacemakers.  Whilst microshocks may be present, they should be limited to acceptable levels below the sensory effects limits.

If you are above the sensory effects limits but still below the health effects limits, you could potentially experience some sensory effects.  The main example would be magnetophosphenes, a flickering sensation in the vision.  These effects are transient - they disappear as soon as the field is removed - and they are not known to be harmful.  That is why the Regulations allow you to exceed these sensory effects limits under certain conditions.

If you are above the health effects limits, you may experience "peripheral nerve stimulation".  This means there could be interference with the nerves of, for example, the limbs, which could be painful and, for example if you were working at height, possibly dangerous.  Even so, there is no suggestion of permanent harm, except at much higher levels.

In each case, the limits are set based on the most sensitive data available, and there is a safety margin built in.  So an average person would probably have to exceed the limits by a significant margin to start experiencing the stated effects.


What you have to do

The structure of the Regulations can seem quite complex, but it all makes sense:

You must comply with the Health ELV Regulation 4(1)

You can use the High Action Levels to assess compliance with the Health ELV Regulation 5(2)(b)

You can exceed the Sensory ELV Regulation 4(2) as long as:

  • it is temporary
  • indirect effects (spark discharges and contact currents) are controlled
  • staff are warned of the possibility of sensory effects Table ELV3 Note 2


You must perform an Exposure Assessment Regulation 5

You need a Risk Assessment only if you exceed the ELVs, or indirect effects are an issue, or you have staff at particular risk. Indirect effects means:

  • electric fields above the Low Action Level, 10 kV/m at 50 Hz Table AL1
  • contact currents above the relevant Action levels Table AL5
  • static magnetic fields high enough to interfere with medical devices or cause a projectile risk Table AL6


You need an Action Plan only if you exceed the ELVs Regulation 7

You must provide information and training Regulation 10

You must provide "appropriate" health surveillance and medical examinations to staff who exceed the Health ELV and report experiencing a health effect Regulation 11

There are exemptions for military and MRI Regulation 4(3) and the HSE can issue further exemptions Regulation 13

(Please note this is just a summary and is specific to low frequencies.)

Guidance on applying this

The HSE themselves have published Guidance: HSG281.

There is also the EU Practical Guide to the Directive.

The HSE have issued some indication of how they propose to use the Exemptions.

"Staff at particular risk" principally means staff with active medical devices or pregnant staff.

Northern Ireland

The "Control of Electroimagnetic Fields at Work Regulations 2016" that came into effect on 1 July 2016 cover Great Britain but not Northern Ireland.

The same effect was achieved in Northern Ireland by "the Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2016" (S.R. 2016 No. 266), made on 4 July 2016 and coming into operation on 1 August 2016.



Other limits in the UK

These Regulations apply to occupational exposure.  See also the position on public exposure in the UK.


Full citation

2016 No. 588
The Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations 2016