The radio connections that we depend on for our daily safety, security, communication, and entertainment are most effectively delivered to our devices from a considerable height above our surrounding area. This makes towers, rooftops, utility poles and other existing structures the best locations to secure transmitters and antennas. Anyone who works near radio transmitters must understand radio frequency (RF) radiation hazards and have the required training for safe working practices associated with this. Devices that generate RF radiation, once installed, should indicate a safe working environment for those working in close proximity to these devices such as tower climbers, rooftop workers and bucket truck workers. Distance is particularly important since power density decreases, both horizontally and vertically, the further away from the source these workers are. Exposure therefore decreases the greater the distance or the higher up the antenna is from the workers mentioned. There are two overarching considerations to ensure safe working around transmitting antennas: Workers should not be exposed to levels of RF radiation exceeding the limits and must use a personal RF monitor to effectively measure the combined level of exposure from multiple sources present in accordance with international guidelines. These two considerations are discussed below.
1. Employers should ensure that workers are not exposed to levels of RF radiation exceeding the limits
Telecommunications equipment is becoming more prevalent and more robust yet there is the potential of overexposure to RF radiation. However, careful planning by both employers and workers can effectively reduce exposure to this invisible hazard. For this reason, employers who are engaged in this kind of work should have a comprehensive overexposure prevention plan.
One of the ways in which employers can protect their RF trained workers from overexposure to RF is by equipping them with a personal RF monitor. Best practices as laid out in a number of guidelines and, in some cases, legislature dictate that a personal RF monitor prevails over other precautions. RF workers need to complete the required training on how to understand and identify RF, RF zones – including safety and exclusion zones, RF signage and how to work safely in an area about a transmitting antenna.
2. Use a personal RF monitor to measure the accumulated level of exposure
Measuring the exposure levels using a personal RF monitor is a reliable way to understand the exposure conditions around transmitting antennas. It allows workers to quickly quantify and move away from the risk area to a safe area. A personal RF monitor is an ideal tool to identify the presence of RF radiation both during an initial assessment and while work is underway. Personal RF monitors can alert workers to potential exposures by sounding an alarm when the exposure level is exceeded. It is important that workers are trained properly to use these devices and maintain them in accordance with regulations and manufacturer specifications, especially ensuring they are calibrated by the manufacturer themselves
Access to transmitting antennas having a high power density about them due to being either highly directive, or transmitting high levels of RF radiation, or both is generally restricted, ensuring the general public is not exposed to these levels of radiation. However, workers with access to these restricted areas have a much higher risk of being exposed to levels of RF exceeding the safe working limits. When working at sites or on a tower with active transmitters tower climbers should be equipped with and use a calibrated personal RF monitoring device such as one from the FieldSENSE range of Personal RF Monitors. Additionally, specialized training in RF, and also in the use of RF monitors from a reputable RF training facility is essential.
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