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RF Safety Programs

Once you have determined where there might be RF safety hazards, which is often accomplished with a survey and RF safety report, you must determine whether an RF safety program should be developed. RF safety programs can be very simple documents, similar to the written policies and procedures used by countless organizations. They can also take the form of more comprehensive documents.

A good RF safety program provides the following benefits:

  • Minimizes the risk to all people—employees, visitors, and contractors.

  • Demonstrates compliance with all federal (FCC, OSHA), state, and local regulations.

  • Minimizes liability risk.

  • Improves operational efficiency by allowing workers covered by the safety program to work in moderate level fields that exceed the MPE limits of the lower tier, but are lower than the limits of the upper tier.

U.S. government agencies, such as the FCC and OSHA, have gone on record numerous times concerning the need for RF safety programs. The FCC, for example, states that companies need to operate under an RF safety program in order to use the Maximum Permissible Exposure (MPE) limits for Occupational/Controlled (occupational) exposure rather than the more restrictive MPE limits for General Population/Uncontrolled (public) exposure. And since the public limits are only one-fifth of the occupational limits and do not allow for time averaging, operating under the tighter limits can have a bigger impact on operational procedures.

A basic RF safety program can be a single document that is typically 5 to 15 pages long. Although it is a relatively simple document, it must cover the key elements required of any safety program.

A comprehensive RF safety program is designed for larger, more structured organizations. It covers the same elements as the basic program, but it is broken down into several modules. Some of the most important modules are

  • Company Requirements. This is the basic document used by employees.

  • Contractor Requirements. Every contractor and subcontractor must receive this document.

  • Contractor Agreement Letter. Each contractor signs this document, which states that they have received the Contractor Requirements document, agree to follow all of its provisions, and will ensure that each of its subcontractors also follows the requirements.

  • Incident Report Form. What if there is an incident? It is better to determine in advance what the procedures are and who should be contacted. This document covers contact procedures and documents any potential RF exposure incidents.

Regardless of whether the RF safety program is a basic document or a more sophisticated program, every RF safety program should include these elements. The following are the key elements as defined by OSHA:

  1. Utilization of RF source equipment that meets applicable RF and other safety standards

  2. RF hazard identification and periodic surveillance by a competent person who can effectively assess RF exposures

  3. Identification and control of RF Hazard Areas

  4. Implementation of controls to reduce RF exposure to levels in compliance with applicable guidelines

  5. RF safety and health training

  6. Employee involvement in the structure and operation of the program

  7. Implementation of an appropriate medical surveillance program

  8. Periodic reviews of the effectiveness of the program so that deficiencies can be identified and resolved

  9. Assignment of responsibilities, including the necessary authority and resources

RF Safety Solutions can develop an RF safety program tailored for your organization and its potential RF safety hazards. Richard Strickland was a member of the committee that developed the IEEE Recommended Practice on RF Safety Programs, C95.7-2005. This document outlines a procedure for determining the necessary components of an effective RF safety program. RF Safety Solutions has developed comprehensive RF safety programs for several Fortune 500 companies and basic programs for smaller organizations. Contact Us to discuss your requirements.