RF Radiation Training

From cell phones to laptops, everyone seems to need to "be connected." Safety concerns with radio frequency (RF) and microwave radiation have heightened in the 21st century. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends the safety standards for exposure limits and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enforces them through licensing of transmitting devices. Both OSHA and the FCC provide training materials designed to explain the biological effects of RF radiation, how to limit exposure and first aid procedures.

  1. What Is RF Radiation?

    • Radio and microwaves are forms of electromagnetic energy called radio frequency or RF. According to the FCC, electromagnetic radiation "can best be described as waves of electric and magnetic energy moving together through space." RF radiation has frequencies ranging from 3 kilohertz to 300 gigahertz.

    Biological Effects of Exposure

    • High levels of RF radiation exposure cause thermal injuries. Damage can be severe because the burning begins internally and may not cause pain right away. A microwave oven works on this principle. Short-term exposure to high levels of RF energy can cause cataracts and sterility. The people most at risk are transmission line or antennae installation and repair personnel.

      Research is ongoing to determine what the biological effects are from low-level RF radiation exposure. RF output from wireless devices is considered to be well below safety limits, but long-term effects are still being studied.

    Exposure Guidelines

    • The Telecommunications Act of 1996 provides the guidelines for safe RF exposure limits. This act is based on recommendations from several federal agencies. Among them were OSHA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

    Controlling Exposure

    • During maintenance or repair of an RF transmitter or antennae, several control measures should be taken to limit or eliminate RF radiation exposure. The maintenance supervisor should use a lockout or tag-out to ensure electrical power is turned off. The area should be strictly controlled with warning signs and fences. All workers should wear the proper protective equipment.

    First Aid

    • The first symptoms of an RF radiation burn may be similar to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. In the event of an injury, remove the victim from the hazardous area, give him water to drink and call emergency medical personnel.

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