Welding Safety 101: Welding and Pacemakers

Heart - VierdrieLike distant relatives, this is an issue that will never go away. Like distant relatives, this is an issue that we need to set straight.

The concern with how a pacemaker will react during the process of welding is a reoccurring topic in the welding world.

The main question: Can I still weld if I use a pacemaker?

Pacemakers are medical devices that help the heart maintain a normal rhythm. These electrical devices are implanted in cardiac patients. The electromagnetic energy that is present during welding is random, so there is no way to predict exactly how a pacemaker will react to it every time.

There are some who say, “Yes, you can weld.”

Dr. Brian Olshansky gave this response in the video “Can I Go Near Someone Who Is Welding After Having A Pacemaker Implanted?,” posted on ABC.com:

Well, yes you can, but there are certain precautions that you need to take.

For example, if you're near coiled wires that have high electrical current, they can interfere with normal pacemaker function and inhibit a pacemaker from functioning so that it will stop working temporarily.

If you're very close to arc welding — I think it's called MIG and TIG welding — this kind of electrical current can be a problem, again, by inhibiting pacemaker activity. It's best to stay 24 inches away from welding, so an arm's distance.

If you happen to be a welder with a pacemaker or defibrillator, it's best to use short bursts of welding and also to work in a dry area.

Yet, there are some who say, “No, you cannot weld.”

Medtronic, a creator of medical technologies for chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart failure, advices pacemaker holders to stay away from welding. For the reason explained above – the unpredictability of the electromagnetic energy created during welding – they warn those with pacemakers to retire the welding equipment. Full details can be found here.

However, if you must weld, here are some safety tips Medtronic offers:

1. Keep ampere range under 130

2. Keep your clothing (includes gloves and shoes) and work area dry

3. There should be at least a 2ft distant between your pacemaker and the welding arc

4. Also keep welding cables and the unit as far from you as possible. The recommended distance for the welding unit is around 5 feet from where you work.

You can read the rest of the tips here.

The American Welding Society suggests that no one weld until they have spoken to their physician and gathered information about the pacemaker from its manufacturer.

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