Radio Frequency and Workplace Safety
Radio frequency involves the oscillation rate of radio waves in the range of 3 kHz to 300 GHz as well as the alternating currents carrying radio signals. These types of data transmission and broadcasting can have negative impacts on those exposed to the frequencies of these waves. People can be exposed to RF radiation in many ways, here is an idea of some of the ways you may come in contact with radio frequencies:
- Outer Space & the Sun
- Lightning Strikes
- The Earth Itself Emits RF radiation
- Radio/Television signals
- Cell Towers
- Cooking Food in a Microwave
- Welding PVC
- Millimeter Wave Scanners
As you can see, there are many areas in our daily lives where we could potentially come in contact with these waves. While some are certainly more dangerous than others, it is important to have the knowledge on how to protect yourself from the effects whether you work in our specific industries or not.
What is RF?
As noted above, radio frequencies are the rates of oscillation involved with the transmission of data. While there are many uses of radio frequencies, some types of exposure are more dangerous than others. Having the knowledge to make a decision based on safety can be the difference in poor health and the alternative. To dig a little deeper into radio frequencies, there are 12 frequency ranges outlined in the ITU’s conventional names. These range from 3-30 Hz at the “Extremely Low Frequency” range, all the way to 300GHz – 3 THz, also known as “Tremendously High Frequency”. This covers a broad range of frequencies and each one can have different effects. These different frequencies apply to everything from maritime radio transmissions to satellite communications and many things in between. As we continue developing and adding to this technology, so will changes to the safety awareness information available. So, if you are out there working with radio towers, high powered satellites, or even cooking your lunch in a microwave, some of these protection tactics may be sensible to employ.
Health Effects of Radio Frequencies
Electric and magnetic fields are the focus of a wealth of research and information and it continues to grow. One thing the studies are not determining with any consistency are the effects to our biological systems radio frequency exposure may have. Here are some of the direct health effects you may experience if you have been exposed to radio frequencies.
- Alteration of Circadian Rhythms
- Weakened Immune System
- Impacted Electrical and Chemical Signals in the Cell Membrane
- Possibly Carcinogenic to Humans
- Interference with Medical Devices
- Heating of Tissues
- Electrical Shocks
While a few of these have not been fully explored, the list is quite extensive and menacing. The realization that we have these RF waves interacting with us all day long is a little sobering. Studies are still being conducted and many more will follow as we move into the future. In 2015, OSHA stated: “General health effects reviews have found that high levels of exposure to radio frequencies may result in burns… [and] the link between exposure to radio frequencies and cancer, reproductive diseases, and neurological effects has not been thoroughly explored.” There are many more potential effects that are being researched in these studies and we will be sure to keep you on the cutting edge as more information divulges.
The FCC is the main governing body over all registered transmitting services except those which are under the control of the federal government. RF emission compliance has become an industry standard requirement and ensures providers are not posing health risks. There are two different types of exposure limits outlined by the FCC, these are those of the general population and those who are exposed as a “consequence of their employment”. While the FCC is the main governing body, OSHA has also published a few guidelines and suggestions. Most of the OSHA regulations related to radiofrequency and microwave radiation can be found in part 1910 of the OSHA standards. 1910 Subpart G outlines the exposure limit and has been ruled unenforceable for Federal OSHA enforcement. 1910 Subpart J determines a few general environmental controls, and 1910 Subpart R applies to special industries including telecommunications. The Construction Regulations four in part 1926 also contain a few items related to radio frequencies. Subpart D sets the limit of exposure of radio frequency to those working in the construction industry.
Training and knowledge come at the forefront of all of this. Since these frequencies are not easily detectable, it can be hard to determine when you are being exposed. A proper Radio Frequency Safety Awareness Class can be the difference in having confidence and knowledge to make safe decisions versus ending up with negative health effects down the road. OSHA does currently require a comprehensive RF program and the FCC requires training on a communication site. Our course covers this and so much more and we will have great confidence in your abilities upon completion of the course. Some things to consider if you are looking to employ some safety measures before signing up for our class would be to reduce the amount of sources producing the frequencies, reduce exposure time, use wired accessories, and increase your distance from any potential sources of radio frequency.