ARRL General Bulletin ARLB062 (1996)

ARLB062 ARRL Petitions FCC To Change Safety Rules

ARRL Bulletin 62  ARLB062
From ARRL Headquarters
Newington CT  September 10, 1996
To all radio amateurs

ARLB062 ARRL Petitions FCC To Change Safety Rules

The ARRL has petitioned the FCC to reconsider and reverse portions
of the Commission's August 1, 1996, Report and Order that imposed
RF-emission safety standards on Amateur Radio, including a 50-W
threshold to trigger an RF-safety evaluation. In setting the 50-W
threshold, the ARRL said, the FCC failed to consider the effect of
antenna height, antenna gain, emission mode, duty cycle or operating
frequency. The League asked the FCC either to scale the evaluation
threshold by frequency to match the maximum permissible exposure
(MPE) limits--directly corresponding to the way the regulations
scale the exposure levels with frequency--or to set the evaluation
threshold for all HF operation at 150 W at a distance of 10 meters
from all parts of the antenna.

At or below that power level and at that distance from the radiator,
''you'd be well on the side of safe, even at 100 duty cycle, with
any antenna likely to be encountered on HF,'' said ARRL Laboratory
Supervisor Ed Hare, KA1CV, our HQ staff liaison to the ARRL RF
Safety Committee. ''Some VHF/UHF and microwave station configurations
could result in an RF exposure exceeding the requirements of the
regulations, so the 50-W limit to trigger an evaluation is more
appropriate above 30 MHz,'' said Hare. He emphasized that all
stations, regardless of output power or frequency, still must abide
by the specified MPE limits for RF.

The new rules, effective January 1, 1997, require licensees of
amateur stations running 50 W output or more on any band to conduct
a routine RF-safety evaluation to determine if the station could
expose people to RF levels that exceed the MPE limits specified in
the new rules. (Mobile installations using push-to-talk, regardless
of power, are exempt from the environmental evaluation requirement.)
In its reconsideration filing, the League called the 50-W threshold
''regulatory overkill'' and ''without scientific basis.'' Among other
things, the League said the means to conduct RF radiation
evaluations are not yet available, and the ability to reconfigure a
station that might exceed the new limits ''is highly problematic.''
Coupled with any state and local land-use and RF-exposure
regulations that might exist, application of the new rules ''may
constitute a de facto revocation or modification of the station
license,'' the League said.

The League also said the FCC adopted the rules ''through flawed
procedures'' and without advance notice and opportunity for prior

The ARRL said that the new rules differentiate between ham stations
and other Commission licensees ''which are treated far less
restrictively.'' While the FCC preempted state and local government
regulation of personal wireless service facilities based on
environmental effects of RF emissions, it refused to do the same for
ham radio ''without any basis for the distinction.''

The ARRL already has asked the FCC to extend the deadline to change
amateur examinations and modify question pools, but the Commission
has yet to act on the request. The League said that, as it now
stands, hams have no way to determine the scope of their obligations
under the new rules.

The League suggested the FCC vacate its new RF safety rules
governing amateur stations and issue a further notice to permit
comment on the proposed rules, and, in particular, the 50-W
evaluation threshold.