A hidden hazard

The roofing industry needs to be prepared for RF radiation risks

Hazards facing roofing workers generally are readily apparent, such as fall hazards at holes and roof edges, fire hazards from flammable liquids, gases and combustible materials, electrical hazards posed from power lines, and noise hazards from various machinery and equipment used during roof system removal or installation.

But one hazard—radio frequency (RF) radiation—sometimes is concealed. RF radiation is energy emanating from antennae or transmitters for wireless communications that may be present on roofs. More troubling, no government regulation requires signs or barricades to warn workers of this hazard.


Increased use of wireless communication throughout the U.S. has resulted in a proliferation of wireless transmitters and antennae. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the government agency with jurisdiction over licensing and managing the electromagnetic spectrum in which transmitters and antennae producing RF radiation operate. Radiation in this context refers to energy moving through space in the form of waves or particles. Electrical charges generate electromagnetic waves that radiate away from a transmitting antenna and are collected by a receiving antenna. RF radiation usually is categorized by wavelength frequencies (waves per second measured in hertz) in the range of 3 kilohertz to 300 gigahertz. Microwave radiation also is in the electromagnetic spectrum but at higher frequencies and shorter wavelengths.