Responsibility for radiological protection (including non-ionising radiation i.e. EMFs) currently lies with Public Health England. Before that it lay with the Health Protection Agency (HPA), and before that with the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB). We explain here for anyone who is really interested the successive legal bases for this. Mostly, it is sufficient just to read the statements on EMFs by each body in turn.
Public Health England (PHE)
PHE came into being on 1 April 2013 as a result of the Health and Social Care Act 2012. The Act did not specifically create PHE but gave the responsibility for certain health matters in England to the Secretary of State, who created PHE to discharge them. Radiation is implicitly covered by section 11:
11 The Secretary of State’s duty as to protection of public health
After section 2 of the National Health Service Act 2006 insert—
“Provision for protection or improvement of public health
2A Secretary of State’s duty as to protection of public health
(1) The Secretary of State must take such steps as the Secretary of State considers appropriate for the purpose of protecting the public in England from disease or other dangers to health.
(2) The steps that may be taken under subsection (1) include—
(a) the conduct of research or such other steps as the Secretary of State considers appropriate for advancing knowledge and understanding;
(b) providing microbiological or other technical services (whether in laboratories or otherwise);
(c) providing vaccination, immunisation or screening services;
(d) providing other services or facilities for the prevention, diagnosis or treatment of illness;
(e) providing training;
(f) providing information and advice;
(g) making available the services of any person or any facilities."
This applies to England only. Section 58 requires the "Appropriate Authority" in each of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to take similar steps in relation to radiation:
58 Radiation protection functions
(1) The appropriate authority must take such steps as it considers appropriate for the purposes of protecting the public from radiation (whether ionising or not).
(2) The steps that may be taken under subsection (1) include—
(a)the conduct of research or such other steps as the appropriate authority considers appropriate for advancing knowledge and understanding;
(b) providing technical services (whether in laboratories or otherwise);
(c) providing services for the prevention, diagnosis or treatment of illness arising from exposure to radiation;
(d) providing training;
(e) providing information and advice;
(f) making available the services of any person or any facilities.
In practice, PHE still seems to be exercising radiological protection functions across the whole of the UK despite the name.
PHE is an executive agency of the Department of Health.
Section 56 repeals the Health Protection Agency Act 2004 and abolishes the HPA.
Health Protection Agency (HPA)
HPA was established by the Health Protection Agency Act 2004 and came into being on 1 April 2005.
Section 3 of the Act gave HPA the following key responsibilities for radiation (the rest of section 3 deals with how they could be given extra responsibilities and who they had to liaise with):
3 Radiation protection functions
(1) The Agency has the following functions in relation to risks connected with radiation (whether ionising or not)—
(a) the advancement of the acquisition of knowledge about protection from such risks;
(b) the provision of information and advice in relation to the protection of the community (or any part of the community) from such risks.
Those responsibilities applied across the whole UK, though section 2 specifies how the Devolved Administrations could give them specific functions. The legal status was a "non-departmental public body".
The former NRPB became part of HPA, sometimes known as the Radiation Protection Division (RPD) but more normally as part of the Centre for Chemical, Radiation and Environmental Hazards (CRCE).
Schedule 4 of the Health Protection Act repealed the Radiological Protection Act 1970, thereby abolishing the NRPB.
National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB)
The NRPB was created by the Radiological Protection Act 1970. Section 1 gives the key responsibilities:
1.-(1) There shall be a public authority, to be called the National Radiological Protection Board (in this Act referred to as " the Board "), whose function it shall be-
(a) by means of research and otherwise, to advance the acquisition of knowledge about the protection of mankind from radiation hazards ; and
(b) to provide information and advice to persons (including government departments) with responsibilities in the United Kingdom in relation to the protection from radiation hazards either of the community as a whole or of particular sections of the community.
The NRPB's functions were extended to include non-ionising radiation in 1974. The NRPB functioned UK-wide. Its legal status was a "public authority".
The Devolved Administrations
The NRPB and HPA both had a UK-wide responsibility for radiation including EMFs. With PHE, the situation is less clear. There are bodies with public-health responsibility in each of the devolved administrations, but these bodies do not seem to have specific radiation responsibilities, and certainly in practice, the radiation specialisation remains in PHE.
|Name of body||Public Health England||Public Health Wales|
(also a separate body NHS Health Scotland which deals with health improvement but not radiation protection)
|Public Health Agency|
|Year established||1 April 2013||1 October 2009||2005||April 2009|
|Legal status||Executive Agency of Department of Health||NHS Trust||A division of NHS National Services Scotland||Not clear|
Health and Social Care Act 2012
(does not specifically establish PHE but creates duty on Secretary of State which is discharged through PHE)
|The Public Health Wales National Health Service Trust (Establishment) Order 2009|
|Specific mention of radiation in establishment or purpose?||Yes||No||Not known||Not known|
|Encompasses radiation in practice?||Yes||Yes, treated as a collective responsibility with HPA. HPA provided authoritative expertise and advice, PHW provided locally based resource. We assume the agreement has transferred to PHE.||Yes. Mainly seems to refer to UK-wide advice from HPA but also issues its own guidance.||Yes, in practice mainly disseminating HPA advice in Northern Ireland.|
|Status of Codes of Practice|
Agreed by DECC and DH
Agreed by Welsh Assembly
Agreed by Scottish Executive
Agreed by Northern Ireland Executive (Codes of Practice re-issued in 2012 to reflect this)
|Status of Occupational exposure limits|
Implemented by Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations (2016)
S.I. 2016 No. 588
Introduced by Health and Safety Executive
Took effect 1 July 2016
Implemented by the Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2016
S.R. 2016 No. 266.
Introduced by the Department for the Economy
Took effect 1 August 2016