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Limiting the exposure of workers to risks from electromagnetic fields (from July 2016)

Limiting the exposure of workers to risks from electromagnetic fields (from July 2016)

The directive lays down minimum health and safety requirements on the exposure of workers to risks from electromagnetic fields.


Directive 2013/35/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 on the minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents (electromagnetic fields) (20th individual directive within the meaning of Article 16(1) of Directive 89/391/EEC) and repealing Directive 2004/40/EC.


The legislation is an individual directive under Framework directive 89/391/EEC. It introduces measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers. It replaces a 2004 directive (2004/40/EC) that never entered into force due to problems implementing its provisions, especially in the medical sector.


The directive provides for measures to protect workers from all known short-term direct and indirect adverse health effects caused by electromagnetic fields. It does not address potential long-term effects, but if well-established scientific evidence on these becomes available, the European Commission will consider what action to recommend.

The measures provide for a minimum basis of protection for all workers in the EU, leaving member countries free to maintain or establish stricter requirements. They must transpose the directive into their national legal system by 1 July 2016.


The legislation covers direct biophysical effects. These occur in the human body as a direct result of its presence in an electromagnetic field. They include thermal effects, such as tissue heating, and non-thermal effects like the stimulation of muscles, nerves or sensory organs.

It includes among indirecteffects those that are caused by the presence of an object, such as cardiac pacemakers and other implants, in an electromagnetic field and which could become a safety or health hazard.

The directive sets out exposure limit values, based on biophysical and biological considerations, to protect workers from adverse health and sensory effects. It also contains action levels to identify when relevant protection or prevention measures should be taken.

Obligations on employers

The directive lays down various obligations on employers. They must ensure that exposure of employees to electromagnetic fields remains within the limits set by the directive. If these are exceeded, they must take immediate preventive action. However, exemptions exist whereby levels may be exceeded under certain very strict conditions.

In general, employers must ensure that risks from electromagnetic fields at work are eliminated or reduced as much as possible. Regular risk and exposure assessments and use of practical guides can help to ensure this.

Where risks to workers’ health are identified, employers must have an action plan of protection and preventive measures. This can include technical and/or organisational measures, especially for workers at particular risk.

The legislation also requires health monitoring to prevent, or diagnose early on, any adverse health effects. If excessive exposure is detected employers must provide appropriate medical examinations or individual health monitoring in accordance with national law and practice.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2013/35/EU



OJ L 179 of 29.06.2013, pp. 1-21


Council Directive 89/391/EEC of 12 June 1989 on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work (Official Journal L 183, 29.6.1989, pp. 1-8).