New Non-Ionizing Radiation Duties for UK Employers
The Control of Artificial Optical Radiation at Work Regulations took effect April 27 and make employers responsible for analyzing visible light hazards, such as from lasers, and protecting and training workers exposed to them.
The new Control of Artificial Optical Radiation at Work Regulations took effect in Britain on April 27. The regulations comply with a European Union Directive to ensure standards are harmonized across Europe to protect workers from hazardous sources of artificial light, such as lasers. The Health and Safety Executive, Britain's OSHA agency, says UK workers in general are well protected from these hazards, so the regulations won't require major changes by most businesses. Office lighting, photocopiers, and computers are not affected by the regulations.
HSE has provided draft guidance on UV exposure and other sources of artificial optical radiation. OSHA offers eTools and other resources about non-ionizing radiation hazards and eye protection for employees who work with lasers.
The new regulations define "artificial optical radiation" as "any electromagnetic radiation in the wavelength range between 100nm and 1mm which is emitted by non-natural sources." They say if the employer's risk assessment indicates employees are exposed to levels of artificial optical radiation that exceed the exposure limit values, the employer must create and implement an action plan that takes into account:
- other working methods;
- choice of appropriate work equipment emitting less artificial optical radiation;
- technical measures to reduce the emission of artificial optical radiation including, where necessary, the use of interlocks, shielding, or similar health protection mechanisms;
- appropriate maintenance programs for work equipment, workplaces, and workstation systems;
- the design and layout of workplaces and workstations;
- limitation of the duration and level of the exposure;
- the availability of personal protective equipment;
- the instructions of the manufacturer of the equipment where it is covered by relevant European Union Directives; and
- the requirements of employees belonging to particularly sensitive risk groups.
If employees are still exposed to excessive levels, steps must be taken to reduce those exposures and signs placed marking areas where employee access is restricted.