Radiation is energy that's transmitted through space as electromagnetic waves or sub-atomic particles. It emits from various sources including microwaves, infrared, visible and ultra-violet light, radio frequency radiation, microwaves, x-rays and gamma rays. Overexposure is uncommon, but possible in certain workplace situations.
Seven OSHA standards apply to radio frequency safety in the workplace. OSHA 29 CFR 1910.97 (a) (2) (I) defines the permissible level of exposure. 1910.268 relates specific telecommunication industry standards. 1926.54, 20 relates specific construction industry standards. 1910.147 requires a lockout/tagout of power when conducting maintenance. 1910.132 describes the appropriate personal protective equipment. 1910.145 and 1926.200 covers hazardous warning signs requirements.
Hazards to People
The effects of RF radiation are only possible at an exposure rate of ten times or more the allowed standard. These dangerous levels of exposure would not be experienced from normal cell phone or home microwave use. The potential effects of exposure at ten times the standard include: raised body temperature cataracts reduced sperm count in males burns or shocks. Exposure exhibits no greater risk to a developing fetus than to the mother.
Hazards to Ordnance
RF radiation can affect explosives. It can cause premature detonation of electroexplosive devices.
Possibility of Electromagnetic Interference
RF radiation can cause interference with other electronic equipment. For this reason, operation of common devices such as cell phones are not allowed in some locations, such as planes in flight or in hospitals.
Safety and Controls
Organizations can reduce the risks of RF radiation by preparing a safety program and using appropriate safety controls. Identify potential RF hazards, then use controls to comply with appropriate guidelines such as those set by ACGIH, ANSI, ICNIRP and IEEE, including establishing safe workplace practices and training employees in these safety protocols. Identify, sign and control access to RF hazard areas. Use only RF source equipment meeting RF safety standards.
Create an RF safety and health training program so employees understand the RF hazards in their workplace and what controls are used. Part of the safety program should be a medical surveillance program. Conduct annual program effectiveness reviews to identify and resolve deficiencies. Assign specific safety responsibilities to personnel, giving them the authority and resources to implement and enforce the safety program.