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Exposure to electromagnetic fields

This Directive lays down minimum requirements concerning the protection of workers from the risks arising from exposure to electromagnetic fields and waves.


Directive 2004/40/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents (electromagnetic fields) (18th individual Directive within the meaning of Article 16(1) of Directive 89/391/EEC) [See amending acts].


This Directive forms part of a "package" of four directives on the exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents: noise, vibration, electromagnetic fields and optical radiation.

It is an individual directive under framework Directive 89/391/EEC on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work.


The Directive provides for measures to protect workers from the risks related to electromagnetic fields. However, it does not address the long-term effects, including the carcinogenic effects, that could result from exposure to electrical, magnetic and electromagnetic fields, for which there is no conclusive scientific data establishing a causal link.

Moreover, the Directive does not yet provide for exposure limits for static magnetic fields, for which further scientific evaluations are awaited.

The measures foreseen create a minimum basis of protection for all workers in the Union, leaving the Member States the option of keeping or adopting more favourable provisions. Moreover, its implementation cannot be used to justify any regression of the (possibly more favourable) provisions that apply in each Member State before its entry into force.


The Directive lays down two types of value for exposure of workers:

  • "exposure limit values" defined in Table 1 of the Annex to the Directive on the basis of the various frequencies that are recognised as having harmful effects on the human cardiovascular system or the central nervous system or as being capable of causing whole-body heat stress or excessive localised heating of tissues;
  • "action values", or values above which employers must take the measures specified in the Directive. Compliance with these action values will ensure compliance with the relevant exposure limit values. These action values are obtained from the guidelines laid down by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). They are set out in Table 2 of the Annex to the Directive (13 frequency ranges that apply to all electromagnetic fields and are based on directly measurable parameters).


The Directive lays down various types of obligation with which employers must comply.

Determination of exposure and assessment of risks

  • assessment, measurement and calculation, by the appropriate services and at regular intervals, of the levels of electromagnetic fields to which workers are exposed;
  • saving of the results of this assessment on a suitable data storage medium so that they can be consulted at a later stage;
  • consideration in the assessment of risks (among other things, of the level, frequency spectrum, duration and type of exposure), of the indirect effects, such as interference with medical electronic equipment and devices, fires and explosions resulting from ignition of flammable materials.

Provisions designed to avoid or reduce risks

Once the action values are exceeded, employers must devise and implement an action plan comprising technical and/or organisational measures intended to prevent exposure from exceeding the exposure limit values (modification of working methods, choice of appropriate work equipment, better design of work stations, etc.). However, employers are not obliged to do so if they prove that there are no risks to the health of workers.

If, despite the measures taken by the employer to limit the risks, the exposure limit values are exceeded, the employer must take immediate action in order to reduce exposure to an authorised level.

Worker information and training

Exposed workers or their representatives must receive all necessary information and training, particularly relating to the outcome of the risk assessment, the measures taken by the employer, safe working practices, the detection of adverse effects and the circumstances in which workers are entitled to health surveillance.

Consultation and participation of workers

The Directive restricts itself to the requirements laid down in framework Directive 89/391/EEC.


Health surveillance

The Directive provides for the requirement of appropriate surveillance of the health of exposed workers with the objective of preventing any adverse effects due to exposure to electromagnetic fields.

Where exposure exceeds the limit values, a medical examination is foreseen. If it transpires that the health of the workers concerned has been harmed as a result of this exposure, a reassessment of the risks must be carried out.

Measures are also foreseen to ensure that the doctor responsible for the health surveillance has access to the results of the risk assessment, while the workers concerned will be able to have access to their own personal health records, at their request.


The Member States must provide for adequate sanctions in the event of infringement of the national provisions transposing the Directive.


Member States must provide a report to the Commission every five years on the practical implementation of the Directive, indicating the points of view of the social partners.

Every five years, the Commission must inform the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Advisory Committee on Safety and Health Protection at Work of the content of the reports of the Member States. It must also send them an assessment of developments in this field, in particular as regards exposure to static magnetic fields.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2004/40/EC



OJ L 184 of 24.05.2004

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2007/30/EC



OJ L 165 of 27.6.2007

Directive 2008/46/CE



OJ L 114 of 26.4.2008

Regulation (EC) No 1137/2008



OJ L 311 of 21.11.2008

Directive 2012/11/EU



OJ L 110 of 24.4.2012

Successive amendments and corrections to Directive 2004/40/EC have been incorporated in the basic text. This consolidated version is for reference purpose only.

Last updated: 29.03.2013