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I bought an RF Safety Monitor, Now What?

RSI recently received a call from a person who bought an RF safety monitor but do not use it.

Here is what the caller said:

"I bought an RF safety monitor but I have not taken it out of the box. I bought it to test levels when my crew start tasting copper in their mouth, watering eyes, or skin burning. Our turf vendor said a monitor gives so many false readings, that if they do get a high RF reading, we will have to remove everyone from the site and that is too costly. So we choose not to use it because we are afraid of getting a high RF reading."

RSI’s answer:

OSHA mandates that employees must be protected from hazards. This includes hearing and eye protection, and if in an area with the potential for exposure to electromagnetic energy, RF safety monitoring equipment. It is the responsibility of the employer to provide training to the workers on the use of the equipment. RF monitors require training in their use to the level of competent and qualified.

Anytime there is the potential for exposure OSHA requires usage. There is a potential or opportunity for exposure on any site or within any area there is a transmitter. Remember, the levels of exposure specifically say: Applies to situations in which the public may be exposed or in which persons who are exposed as a part of their employment (workers) who may have not been made fully aware of the potential for exposure or cannot exercise control over their exposure.

The only way of knowing if a person is being exposed is through the use of RF Safety monitors. At this time, RF monitors should be looked upon as a piece of equipment for everyday use, the same as a hard hat, steel toe boots, goggles, and ear plugs. The use, maintenance and care of the equipment should be taught to the employees, and this training must be updated annually, or as needed. New hires should have intense training on what the proper use of this equipment is and why they need to use it as well as other personal protection equipment.

Using an approved RF safety monitor can provide you with a means of warning yourself of RF field strengths that may be above the standards. RF safety monitors can be a useful tool, but they may tend to give you a false sense of security. You should never totally rely on an RF safety monitor, but instead use it in conjunction with your knowledge of RF safety. Many telecommunications sites have a wide range of styles of equipment, from PCS, Cellular, and Broadcast to high-energy microwave transmitters. The personal monitor that is chosen must be compatible with the environment that you are working in (i.e. the correct frequency range).

RF and the Human Body

The primary health hazard related to exposure to RF energy known at this time is heating. The resonating energy of the RF wave can excite tissue molecules to a rapid state, resulting in heating of bodily tissues. The human body is an excellent radiator, and the immediate effects of heating can dissipate if the individual is removed from the RF environment. If the individual is not removed rapidly enough, permanent damage can occur. At microwave frequencies, the RF energy is able to heat tissues at an incredible rate, hence, the efficiency of modern microwave ovens. This same energy can cause instant damage to tissues with high water content, such as eyes, as well as other tissues. Microwaves are something that should not be dealt with unless trained accordingly.

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