EMF Testing at a Computer-Server Facility

Stuart D Bagley, MS CIH CSP is the owner and principal consultant with IAQ-EMF Consulting Inc. He is a Certified Industrial Hygienist and Certified Safety Professional.

Stuart D Bagley, MS CIH CSP is a Certified Industrial Hygienist and Certified Safety Professional.

A study was completed for a computer-server facility or data center. The purpose of this visit was to test for electromagnetic fields (EMF) that could affect a heart patient with a pacemaker or defibrillator. For the most visitors a computer data center presents little hazard.  But the data center is potentially hazardous for maintenance workers who conduct physical work on the servers.

A data center is a collection of computer servers maintained by a hosting provider. Data centers are needed to accomplish tasks far beyond the capability of one individual server.  Some of the world’s largest data centers can each contain many tens of thousands of IT devices and require more than 100 megawatts (MW) of power capacity—enough to power around 80,000 U.S. households (U.S. DOE 2020).  Servers and their cooling systems account for the greatest shares of direct electricity use in data centers.  Followed by storage drives and network devices. A single power distribution unit or PDU at a data center can use as much as 215,000 watts of energy. Hazardous indeed!

PDUs (power distribution units) present the greatest hazard to anyone opening electrical panels. A strong electromagnetic field is a potential hazard, but the possibility of arc flash and/or of electrocution is of even greater concern.  Also concerning are electric substations.  They should be avoided entirely by a worker with a electronic medical implant.