What is it all about?
All uses of radio spectrum generate electromagnetic fields (EMF) and there are international guidelines to help ensure services operate in a way that will not adversely affect peoples’ health. In normal conditions, most uses of radio spectrum for wireless communications present no health risk to humans – but exposure to very high levels of
radiofrequency EMF can be harmful.
In the UK, Public Health England (PHE) takes the lead on public health matters associated with radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, and has a statutory duty to provide advice to Government on any health effects that may be caused by exposure to EMF. PHE’s main advice is that EMF exposure should comply with the Guidelines published by the International Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). The ICNIRP Guidelines include internationally recognised limits on EMF exposure for the protection of the general public. We refer to these limits as the “general public EMF limits”
Ofcom have published the recent changes to the Wireless Telegraphy Act licences requiring all spectrum users (including all radio amateurs) to comply with the ICNIRP general public limits on EMF exposure. Compliance is required after November 18th 2021 for frequencies above 110MHz, after 18th May 2022 for frequencies above 10MHz but below 110MHz, after 18 November 2022 for frequencies below 10MHz. More information can be found on their web page ofcom.org.uk/emf and at https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0025/214459/guidance-emf-compliance-enforcement.pdf
What does it mean to me as a Radio Amateur?
All spectrum users that are subject to an EMF condition, and whose radio equipment is currently authorised to transmit at powers higher than 10 Watts EIRP or 6.1 Watts ERP, are required to take this Guidance into account in order to ensure they comply with the EMF condition. A failure to take this Guidance into account can constitute a breach of an
EMF condition and may result in Ofcom taking enforcement action.
Amateur EMF licence conditions requires that we control our use of RF to protect the public from exposure to EMF above the exposure limits defined by Ofcom in accordance with Public Health England recommendations that are based on ICNIRP guidelines. You can find the complex ICNIRP 2020 Guidelines here.
To help licensees assess compliance with the EMF licence condition, Ofcom have developed a simple EMF calculator.
Licensees can enter basic parameters of their radio system (frequency and transmitter power) into the calculator. Based on this, the calculator will calculate a separation distance that the licensee can maintain between the radio equipment and members of the general public in order to demonstrate compliance
As an amateur you need to calculate your EMF emissions and the fact that your use of radio equipment does
not exceed the basic restrictions in the relevant tables for general public exposure identified in the version of the ICNIRP Guidelines which are identified in this Guidance.
Licensees can print the output of the EMF calculator and keep this with their licence as evidence of compliance.
Download the EMF calculator (XLSX, 56.8 KB)
There is an excellent video produced by the RSGB explaining the use of the EMF calculator which we strongly suggest watching:
This calculator is just one method of assessing and demonstrating compliance. More detailed information on acceptable methods for assessing and demonstrating compliance are included in the Ofcom’s Guidance on EMF Compliance and Enforcement.
For the RSGB’s advice on EMF please visit https://rsgb.org/main/technical/emc/emf-exposure/