NA&TSC's Response to FCC RF Safety Issue
January 8, 2018
FCC Issue: Safety Related to Hidden “Stealth” Antennas (Para. 186) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)
FCC Issue Explanation: The FCC takes issue with the lack of safety first responders and 3rd party workers receive while working near “stealth” antennas as the danger is less obvious and therefore harder to avoid.
The following is NA&TSC’s solution
The NPRM also correctly seeks comment on how the wide deployment of hidden antennas affects its goal of ensuring worker safety near transmission sites. Specifically, the NPRM states “[r]adio transmitters and their antennas have been deployed in a wide variety of forms . . . as chimneys or panels on a building for aesthetic reasons, and their presence therefore might not be obvious . . . we seek comment on how to provide flexibility and certainty to licensees and site owners while at the same time ensuring enforceable compliance with our exposure limits.”
Rooftop Stealth Site
In the past, the vast majority of transmission sites were located in plain sight in relatively inaccessible locations. Each year, however, an increasing number are located in the facade of buildings, nestled in lighting structures, hidden behind RF-transparent but visually obscured fiberglass walls on rooftops, or designed to look like anything but transmitting antennas. These sites allow licensees to comply with often-strict local antenna siting rules, address communities’ aesthetic concerns and adhere to site owner mandates. But stealth sites also make it significantly more difficult for workers to identify where RF risks exist. There is abundant evidence that electricians, painters, maintenance workers, roofers, sheet-metal workers, HVAC technicians, and others are performing tasks in close proximity to stealth antennas.
The FCC should react to the emergence of these stealth antennas with rules that advance the use of a private sector, neutral third-party to collect and distribute RF safety information related to transmission sites. Such a database would allow workers to identify all RF safety concerns at a location even where visual inspection does not allow effective risk avoidance. In particular, such a system would provide workers with up-to-date RF “maps of the invisible,” keyed to the FCC limits for maximum permissible exposure limits as identified in 47 C.F.R. § 1.1310, prior to entering a property.