Secondary Injury Prevention: Farming with a Pacemaker

Ohio AgrAbility Fact Sheet Series
AEX-981.8
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Date: 
03/24/2011
S. Dee Jepsen, Assistant Professor, State Safety Leader, Agricultural Safety and Health, Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, The Ohio State University
Kent McGuire, Ohio AgrAbility Program Coordinator, Agricultural Safety and Health, Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, The Ohio State University
Danielle Poland, Student Intern, Agricultural Safety and Health, Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, The Ohio State University

Pacemakers today are designed to interrupt lives as little as possible. Farmers returning to work with a pacemaker can raise some concerns. Minimal restrictions are required in the work place, but several modifications may be necessary to the way tasks are performed.

The decision to use certain tools requires the consultation of a heart doctor. The doctor can provide information about the degree of risk these tools pose as a medical threat. It is highly important to inform the doctor of any potentially dangerous situations that may be encountered with the pacemaker. Pacemakers do differ and one device may be more appropriate for the person's occupation than another device.

Recommended safety precautions for tools and equipment

It is recommended to use a soldering iron instead of a soldering gun. A soldering gun generates an electromagnetic spike when the button is released, which can be a problem for electromagnetically sensitive devices. If a soldering gun is used it needs to stay at least six inches away from the pacemaker.

Turn the engine off before working on any gas-powered tools or equipment. Caution needs to be taken when standing/leaning near the coil, distributor, or spark plugs of a equipment. Do not work on the distributor with the engine running.

Power tools can still be used, but they need to be kept away from the pacemaker. The tools should be inspected before each use to ensure they are not damaged and are not likely to cause electric shock. People with pacemakers should never work alone and should always properly ground all tools before use because pacemaker recipients are more susceptible to electric shock.

Recommended safety precautions when welding

It is recommended that people with pacemakers avoid welding; however, some individuals may still need to use these tools. People with pacemakers using welding equipment should use extreme caution.

  • Do not use current settings higher than necessary. It is suggested to not use more than 130 ampere range.
  • Ensure the area is dry.
  • It is important to wear dry gloves and shoes.
  • Keep the weld cables as close together as possible by twisting or taping them.
  • Connect work clamp to workpiece as close to the weld as possible.
  • Arrange cables to one side and away from the operator.
  • Keep welding power source and cables as far away as practical.
  • Keep the welding arc 2 feet from the pacemaker.
  • Do not weld with rapidly repeated short spurts—wait about 10 seconds between each weld.
  • If you feel sick, such as light headed or dizzy, stop welding immediately and get medical attention.
  • Again, do not work alone.

Recommended safety precautions for chain saw

There are also certain precautions when using a chain saw. Caution needs to be used with chain saws because unlike most power tools, they have a tendency to temporarily affect the pacemaker. An electric chainsaw is safer than one that is gas powered. With gas-powered chainsaws the hands and body come into close contact with the electric spark generating components that could interact with the pacemaker.

The precautions are:

  • The motor of an electric chain saw should be held 6 inches from the pacemaker.
  • If using a gas-powered chain saw is absolutely necessary, the ignition system should never be within 12 inches of the pacemaker. Choose a machine where the spark plug is not near the handgrips.
  • If you feel sick, such as light headed or dizzy, immediately discontinue use and get medical attention.
Additional tools/equipment with safety precautions
No Known Risk Minimal Risk Special Considerations
If the item is used as intended and in good working condition there is no known risk:
• Calipers—battery powered
• Flashlight—battery powered
• Laser Level
• Soldering Iron
• Stud Finder
Maintain at least a 6-inch distance between the item and your heart device:
 
• Circular Saw—skill saw
• Drills—battery and electric powered
• Grinder (hand-held)
• Hedge Trimmer—electric powered
• Lawn Mower—electric powered
• Leaf Blower—electric powered
• Reciprocating Saw
• Router
• Sander
• Screwdriver—battery powered
• Soldering Gun
• Weed Whacker—electric powered
Maintain at least the recommended distance between the item and your heart device:
 
12-Inch Distance
• Car Battery Charger—100 amps or less
• Gasoline Ignition Systems—from components of ignition system
• Gasoline Powered Tools—from components of ignition system (lawn mower, snowblower, weed whacker)
• Generators—20 kW or less
 
2-Foot Distance
• Bench Mounted/Free Standing Tools—for motors 400 horsepower or less (air compressor, drill presses, grinder, pressure washer, table saw)
• Jumper Cables
Source: "More Help for Heart Device Patients: Electromagnetic Compatibility Guide," Medtronic, Inc., 2006.
 

Acknowledgments

This fact sheet was reviewed by Karen Mancl, PhD, Professor, Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, The Ohio State University; Pat Luchkowsky, Director of Public Affairs, Easter Seals of Ohio.

References

Medtronic. 2006. Electromagnetic Compatibility Guide.

Medtronic. Implantable Pacemakers and Defibrillator Information. Welding and Chain Saws.

Pacemaker Frequently Asked Questions. NHS Foundation Trust. wwl.nhs.uk/Specialities/Cardiology/pacemaker_faq.aspx

Safety and Health Fact Sheet No. 16. American Welding Society. Pacemakers and Welding.


About AgrAbility Based Fact Sheets
These fact sheets were developed to promote success in agriculture for Ohio's farmers and farm families coping with a disability or long-term health condition. AgrAbility offers information and referral materials such as this fact sheet, along with on-site assessment, technical assistance, and awareness in preventing secondary injuries. Fact sheets were developed with funding from NIFA, project number OHON0006. 

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