Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date


Publication Details

A. Strange and J. Ralston, Safe automation: A practical guide to understand and manage sensor RF exposure risk, 12th Coal Operators' Conference, University of Wollongong & The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, 2012, 305-314.


The increasing interest in remote and automation technology by the underground coal mining industry has resulted in the introduction of sensors and devices that emit electromagnetic radiation. The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) has defined clear maximum limits for exposure to electromagnetic radiation to ensure health and safety of people and the environment. However, it is often difficult to determine the actual radio frequency (RF) energy level a sensor radiates in a given operation context. Further, the ARPANSA regulation and associated Australian standards for electromagnetic radiation exposure can be complex to practically interpret. Unfortunately, this may leave the mining personnel in the position where they need to either solely rely on vendor device specifications or hope that the sensor is not presenting any radiation exposure risk. This paper provides an overview of the ARPANSA exposure regulations and sets out a practical approach to measure the radiation as per the Australian Standard. By focussing on an RF range from 3 kHz to 300 GHz, a number of commonly used active devices such as radars, wireless communication systems, and related RF imaging devices can be assessed. A simple method to allow basic in-house testing is described to allow end-users to make independent quantitative assessments of sensor radiation levels. The assessment method is demonstrated with a practical example using two ground penetrating radar systems as test cases.