RF Safety Course for Broadcasters Could Save Lives

There was a time when no one thought much about RF safety hazards in the radio workplace.
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There was a time when no one thought much about RF safety hazards in the radio workplace. If a tower light burned out, you climbed the stick with a spare, and the only thing you worried about was falling off. You took delivery of your new 50 kilowatter and were pleased with the really big viewing ports that let you get in close for a look at glowing graphite anodes of the finals. This was convenient for you and was also an added attraction during station tours.

That was then.


(click thumbnail)Richard StricklandTimes have changed, and there is now a much greater awareness of possible personal harm from on-the-job exposure to radio frequency energy. Richard Strickland of RF Safety Solutions will be at The NAB Radio Show on Sept. 27 to present a two-part technical workshop on RF safety. The course is designed to give engineering personnel a look at what exposure to excessive RF energy can do, how the FCC and OSHA have addressed such issues in their regulations, protective equipment and more.

IGNORANCE CAN BE COSTLY

A better understanding of RF safety issues is not only wise in terms of keeping workers safe from injury, but also in protecting your facility’s bottom line.

“The FCC used to set a limit of $10,000 in fines in cases regarding RF safety violations,” Strickland said. “That’s not the case anymore. In one situation that was particularly grievous, separate $25,000 and $20,000 fines were issued.”

Once believed harmless, radio-frequency energy exposure has been found to produce effects within the human body. The severity of these depend largely upon intensity and frequency.

“Moderate levels of exposure can make you ill; large doses can permanently kill cells,” Strickland said. “If a large number of cells are killed, then the organ can’t recover. The eyes are particularly vulnerable at microwave frequencies.”

PERMANENT INJURY

Strickland described a case in which a radio technician’s eyes were injured, with no indication to the individual that anything was wrong until hours after overexposure.

“That night his eyes and face began to burn and he sought treatment as soon as he could,” said Strickland. “He was permanently injured, with the result that he can no longer see at night and has no color vision. Three medical-journal articles were written about him and there was a $2 million judgment.”

Part one of the safety session kicks off at 10:30 a.m. and continues until noon. The second part of Strickland’s safety course runs from 2–5 p.m. The workshop is tailored to provide radio personnel with an overview of RF radiation issues and biological effects of RF radiation. Attendees will hear about workplace hazards at transmitter sites, remote operations and unique issues concerning AM stations. The session will also cover FCC and OSHA regulations, compliance and enforcement governing the exposure of workers to RF energy.

Strickland is considered an expert in the field of RF safety and has conducted more than 150 RF safety classes for public and private concerns. Strickland’s company, which is located in South Setauket, N.Y., was founded in 2001 to fill a growing need in educating broadcasters about the unseen dangers present in working with RF gear. He also serves as a consultant to several broadcast groups, including ABC and NBC. Prior to starting RF Safety Solutions, Strickland spent 12 years as director of business development with Narda Safety Test Solutions, a supplier of RF monitoring and measurement devices.

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