Safety Code 6

As the result of newly licensed carriers such as WIND and Mobility and the build-up by carriers to support 4G cell sites are being built or added to at a rate never before seen in Canada. Every year the Wireless Industry in Canada spends over $1 billion on capital improvements. As the number of subscribers continue to grow and the amount of network traffic generated by each user is growing rapidly requiring more cell sites and more equipment and antennas on existing sites. Smartphones and tablets use considerably more network resources than mobile phones. A smartphone uses the capacity of up to 24 'regular phones' and a tablet uses the capacity of as many as 122 'regular phones'. New antennas are appearing everywhere. This unprecedented growth is not without controversy.

Concern has been expressed in Canada regarding perceived risks from radio frequency (RF) exposure. With increasing frequency, Residents faced with the possibility of a cell transmitter tower being erected on a nearby building or a tower near houses or schools or parks will often oppose the installations.

The World Health Organization remains of the opinion stated in Fact sheet No 304 that "considering the very low exposure levels and research results collected to date, there is no convincing scientific evidence that weak RF signals from a base stations and wireless networks cause adverse health effects". More recently, the National Research issued a paper that casts some doubt on the WHO conclusions.

The Federal Government and Health Canada have established mandatory testing and standards of safe RF radiation. Health Canada's role is to protect the health of Canadians, so it is the department's responsibility to research and investigate any possible health effects associated with exposure to electromagnetic energy, such as that coming from cell phones and cell sites. Health Canada has developed guidelines for safe human exposure to RF energy known as Safety Code 6. The limits specified in Health Canada's RF exposure guideline Safety Code 6 has been adopted by Industry Canada and applies to all cellular antenna sites in Canada. It requires that all cell installations be tested and it further requires that upon any modification to the site it again be tested. Industry Canada requires all radio communication and broadcasting installations to comply with its regulatory limits on an ongoing basis so that the general public is not subjected to exposure levels above them. Cell companies are required to perform an assessment of RF exposure on the proposed antenna systems to ensure compliance, and to keep records of the assessment.

Safety Code 6 distinguishes safe limits for those trained individuals working of RF systems and those with no training. It establishes two standards. Exposure limits for RF workers are 5 times higher than that of the general public. Window washers, painters, roofers and general trade's people who do not have any RF training the RF limits are that of the general public.

Health Canada requires that the RF site access doors to the roof be labeled with a large sign that clearly warns people accessing the site to the degree of radiation.

There are three different signs prescribed by Health Canada. The notice sign is the low level and should be placed on all sites and may be used where there is a Cell transmitter but the limits set as being safe for the general public. If the limits exceed that which is acceptable for the general public then a warning sign must be posted in positions to warn and clearly bring to the attention anyone entering the area of the potential health hazard. A danger sign must be posted at the entrance to warn any workers working on the rooftop if the levels of RF exceed the limits set for RF workers. Additional steps may be required which may include fencing off the high RF area, reducing the power of the transmitters and removing or redirecting antennas.

Health Canada continuously monitors any changes to this standard and may in their judgment alter the testing limits imposed by Safety Code 6.

In British Columbia, Worksafe BC requires compliance with Safety Code 6 by all employers. Cellular providers are required by law to provide Safety Code 6 reports each time changes are made to cell rooftop antennas

At Rhombic we have considerable experience in this and are able to advise owners and monitor ongoing compliance. We work closely with and have alliances with PlanetWorks Consulting and the University of British Columbia. Contact us today to find out strategies to reduce your liability as the building owner while maintaining the revenue that the cellular antenna installation can provide.

Additional Resources:

Guidelines for the Protection of the General Public in Compliance with Safety Code 6

Health Canada's Page on Radiofrequency Exposure Guidelines

Worksafe BC - Guidelines Part 7 - Radiation Exposure

Safety Code Six (pdf)

The information contained on this Knowledge Center and Rhombic Consulting Group Inc. website is prepared as a service for our clients and other persons. It is not intended to be a complete statement of the law or an opinion on any subject or to provide legal advice. Although we endeavour to ensure its accuracy, no one should act upon it without a thorough examination of the law after the facts of a specific situation are considered and consulting a lawyer. No part of this publication may be reproduced without prior written permission of Rhombic Consulting Group Inc.