Legal Accountability of a Guideline versus a Standard

The WHO (2006) explains how the use of the words guidelines and standards has substantially different implications for public health and EMF radiation protection enforcement:

1. Guidelines are voluntary instruments of instructions and recommendations that are not legally mandated and therefore have no legal standing.

2. Standards are the mandatory, compulsory and legally binding instruments, i.e., laws, acts, regulations, ordinances and decrees.

They require procedures and systems to exist in order to ensure compliance with mandatory standards, i.e., an agency is mandated to check compliance through calculations and measurements in the workplace, residence and other vulnerable areas.

In summary, a standard has mandatory and legally binding instruments, monitoring and enforcement systems.

Identified were municipalities advertising having a “standard” in the form of a Telecommunications bylaw however, the municipalities purposefully do not meet the criteria to qualify as a standard but instead as a guideline.

We shall use the simple example of traffic law and bylaws. Every vehicle within the municipality must be registered and be licensed. The operating of said vehicles requires the operator to have a license that must be renewed and updated regularly. Different zones have different operating requirements such as speed, emissions, weight class, noise etc.…. There is a monitoring system through cameras, traffic inspector officials, and the public.

Finally, there is enforcement in place through fines, inspections, confiscation and court appearances. 

Furthermore, outside parties can obtain access to verifying the operations of the standard and contribute to efficacy, enhancement and progressive development.

The WHO states there is to be no internationally mandated EMF radiation standard but recommends that countries adopt their health-based EMF radiation standard from the large selection of international guidelines published, based on their tolerance of risk value toward accrued benefits to health. It could be argued that EMF radiation protection and interpretation would fall into existing legislation in South Africa with there being no national EMF radiation exposure safety standard in the country. The argument is based on the false sense of safety associated with the lack of a standard and consequently lack of surveillance of EMF exposure to the public.

Because it cannot be denied that there is the potential of harm from exposure to EMF radiation, legally binding exposure standards have been established in many countries worldwide.


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