Electric and Magnetic Fields
The question of whether electric and magnetic fields are linked in any way to ill-health is a long standing one which still has no conclusive answer.
ENA and the rest of the energy sector is committed to providing all members of the public and the industry’s employees with full and up-to-date information on the issue.
ENA takes any suggestion of a risk to health extremely seriously. ENA believes that the final decision about what constitutes a safe level of exposure should be made by the Government, advised by the Health Protection Agency.
The EU passed a Directive on occupational exposure to EMFs in 2013 (it was published in the Official Journal on 29 June 2013).
This replaces the earlier 2004 Directive, which was deemed to be unworkable and never implemented, and is the final version of the 2011 draft.
It is closely based on the guidelines published by ICNIRP - in the case of power frequencies, ICNIRP 2010.
There was a three year period for member states to bring it into effect. In the UK, this happened through the Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations 2016, which came into effect on 1 July 2016, i.e. using the full three-year period.
The ENA EMF Strategy Committee have developed a risk assessment and information sheet which can be found below.
New Exposure Limits Training Video for Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMFs)
Doctor John Swanson, who looks after electric and magnetic field issues (EMFs) for National Grid and through Energy Networks Association (ENA), provides a lead for the rest of the electricity industry. New occupational exposure limits for EMFs in the UK came into force on 1 July 2016. In this video, John provides a short summary on EMFs for the benefit of employees working within the electricity industry and provides an overview on the new legislation in force explaining what the electricity industry has done to ensure compliance but above all keep workers and the public safe.
Information and Training
Stakeholder Advisory Group on ELF EMFs (SAGE) Precautionary approaches to ELF EMFs
- ENA ER G92 Issue 1 - Guidelines for Best Practice in relation to Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMFs) in the Design and Management of Low Voltage Distribution Networks
First Interim Assessment: Power Lines and Property, Wiring in Homes, and Electrical Equipment in Homes
(date of issue: 27th April 2007)
(This document is available for unrestricted use and distribution as long as the source is referenced)
EMF Awareness in Distribution Networks
Following the Second Interim Assessment of SAGE, which dealt with distribution networks, the industry committed to Government to implement the SAGE recommendation of producing training material designed to increase awareness of EMF issues among those staff who interact with the public. The thinking was that reports of EMF issues can sometimes be useful indicators of network problems but that when members of the public try to report EMF issues, they sometimes talk to staff who are not aware of this. The DNO staff concerned will vary from company to company, depending on whether EMF issues are dealt with by call-centre staff, general engineers, or a smaller team. Through discussions and iterations, ENA's EMF Strategy Committee has come to a view that the best approach is to provide a slide pack, which DNOs can either use as it stands, or can select from to tailor a training presentation appropriate to the needs of the specific staff they intend to use it with. In the spirit of openness the pack has been shared with SAGE stakeholders and is available on the ENA website.
All UK electricity systems comply with the exposure limits in force in the UK, and, as an additional precautionary measure, with a policy of optimum phasing. The details of these are set out in three Codes of Practice agreed with Government and can be found on the BEIS website here.
The industry also publishes detailed evidence of compliance with the exposure limits.
ENA is committed to supporting high-quality independent research to help get closer to a final answer on the EMF issue.
For details of ENA-funded EMF research, please see:
CEGB cohort of UK electricity industry workers
The UK electricity industry supports research into the health of its own workers. A database has been set up of everyone who worked for the then Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) in the late 1970s, over 80,000 people. All these people are being followed up to identify, when they eventually die, the cause of death. New techniques have been developed for assessing people’s exposure to magnetic fields over their working life. It is then possible to see whether the cause of death is linked to exposure to magnetic fields. A major expansion of the use of this cohort is the decision in 2009 to start collecting data on cancer incidence, not just on causes of death.
Information for participants
For many years, the electricity supply industry has given technical and financial support to this study into the long term health of employees of the CEGB and anyone who was employed by the CEGB before 1982 is likely to be a participant. This study is now carried out at the University of Birmingham to the highest of ethical standards, including compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of 2018. Further information is available via the attached privacy notice.