How to Shield Your Pacemaker When Welding?

Working near equipment that generates strong electromagnetic fields that create pulsating magnetic fields, especially when the pulsing rate matches your pacemaker, can be hazardous. Therefore, you must learn to avoid or limit the risk of accidentally exposing your pacemaker while welding. I found some tips on how you can protect your pacemaker when welding?

First, you have to keep the welding current under 120 amps. Ensure there is proper ventilation, and keep the welding arc two feet away from the cardiac device.  You should also keep the welding wires as far apart as possible from your cardiac device (twist them together if required). 

Do you wish to learn more about the effects that electromagnetic fields can have on a pacemaker? Read to the end. You will also learn how to reduce these effects and more.

How Arc Welders and Electromagnetic Fields Affects Pacemakers and ICDs Employees

Over the last decade, public concern about low-frequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and radiofrequency fields has grown (RFs). And in some instances, these suspicions are justified.

Individuals who have cardiac-assist devices may have their devices temporarily disabled or malfunction due to exposure to intense EMFs and RFs.

Employers with welding activities on their premises should be concerned about the potential for hazardous interference with employees who rely on an ICD or pacemaker. 

It is recommended for these employers to examine the EMFs and RFs present in the workplace in order to safeguard the organization’s most precious asset: its people.

Lifesaving Devices

An ICD is a device implanted beneath the skin of individuals at risk of sudden death from ventricular fibrillation. 

This device is intended to give defibrillation if the heart enters a potentially deadly rhythm.

A pacemaker is a medical device used to regulate the heart’s rhythm. This is done when obstacles in the electrical conduction system prevent the native pacemaker’s electrical impulses from reaching the heart’s lower chambers.

Each month, 10,000 patients are implanted with an ICD, Following the American Heart Association. Nearly 600,000 people are implanted with a pacemaker or defibrillator each year. 

Considering such figures, it’s quite likely that someone with an ICD or pacemaker is working in close proximity to arc welding operations.

Hazardous Fields

When an electrical current flows through a wire or electrically controlled equipment, electromagnetic fields are formed, which might interfere with an ICD or pacemaker. 

Using an arc welder and wires creates an electromagnetic field (EMF) around your chest, where your heart device is. Electric screwdrivers and drills and battery-powered, cordless power tools may also interfere with ICDs and pacemakers.

RFs are generated by devices that include cellular phones, two-way radios, CB radios, and broadcast towers. When the source of RF radiation is close to the implanted cardiac device, it can occasionally affect the pacemaker or ICD’s proper operation.

The result, which includes asynchronous (irregular) heart pacing by the device, is potentially life-threatening. Typically, when the gadget is relocated further away from the problematic source, it reverts to its intended operational state.

It is suggested that arc welders maintain a minimum of a 24-inch separation between their wires, arc, transformer, and an implanted cardiac device. 

Personnel with an ICD or pacemaker should not be welding at a facility but should be performing other duties.

A welder wearing an ICD or pacemaker should see their physician prior to accepting a job that requires exposure to arc welding activities. Certain physicians may advise against careers that require extensive arc welding.

Testing the workplace for EMF and RF strength is one technique to ensure employee safety for those with implanted cardiac devices. You can do this by taking a look at the place with special meters that can tell where and how strong electromagnetic fields are.

Various firms, including Extech Industries, offer specialized meters. When conducting a survey, these sorts of meters are often used to measure the EMF levels in an employee’s work area. 

Notably, measurement occurs at the equipment level, not at the area level. Within a few feet of the source, EMFs are typically significant.

What Can Cause Damage To A Pacemaker?

Several medical procedures, including magnetic resonance imaging, CT scans, and cancer radiation therapy, may cause your pacemaker to malfunction.

Minimizing Exposure

Pacemaker and ICD manufacturers and many non-governmental organizations have developed voluntary standards for persons with and without cardiac implants to be exposed to EMF and RF radiation sources.

These guidelines include those established by cardiac device makers such as Boston Scientific CRM, Medtronic CRDM, and St. Jude Medical.

When scanning large regions or when precise readings are required, it may be prudent to contact an impartial EMF consultant. However, when concerns about EMF exposure occur, the individual’s physician should always be contacted first.

All welders – including those without implanted cardiac devices – should be familiar with the proper procedures for minimizing EMF exposure when welding. The Lincoln Electric Co. suggests that welders route their electrodes and work wires together, fastening them whenever possible with tape or tie wraps.

“If the wires are routed together, the EMF at that location is lowered,” it is explained. Certain cables incorporate both electrode and work conductors, which may be a handy way to limit EMF exposure.”

As per Lincoln Electric, proper welding practices involve attaching the work cable to the workpiece as close to the region being welded as possible. 

Additionally, the company recommends that individuals never coil the electrode or work wires around their bodies or place their bodies between the electrode or work cables.

As previously stated, maintaining a safe distance from the welding power source minimizes the risk of EMF exposure. To further reduce exposure, welders can weld at the lowest DC output settings available for the welding operation.

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