Effects of Generators on Heart Pacemakers
I work in the generating set industry, recently, I had a heart pace-maker fitted. It works fine but just comes with a very generic leaflet saying, ‘Stay away from anything with an electromagnetic field (including welding, motors, and the metal detectors at airports etc.)’
There are no measurements, levels, figures or limits etc. For instance I have no idea how close I can get to a running generator or transformer etc.
What should I do?
Firstly, these devices are known as Active Implanted Medical Devices (AIMD).
The radiation under question, is non-ionising radiation. The World Health Organisation (WHO) define non-ionizing radiation as the term given to radiation in the part of the electromagnetic spectrum where there is insufficient energy to cause ionization. It includes electric and magnetic fields, radio waves, microwaves, infrared, ultraviolet, and visible radiation.
There is legislation in the UK, derived from an EU directive. The Health and Safety Executive have issued guidance, and this, together with the EU guidance is tabled at the end of this document. There are also other sources of information tabled.
From the EU guidance:
Table 3.1 — Workers at particular risk as identified in the EMF Directive
Persons at risk may include (summary):
Workers wearing active implanted medical devices (AIMD).
Cardiac pacemakers, cardiac defibrillators, cochlear implants, brainstem implants, inner ear prostheses, neurostimulators, retinal encoders, implanted drug infusion pumps.
Workers wearing passive implanted medical devices containing metal
Artificial joints, pins, plates, screws, surgical clips, aneurism clips, stents, heart valve prostheses, annuloplasty rings, metallic contraceptive implants, and cases of AIMD.
Workers wearing body-worn medical devices
External hormone infusion pumps
3.2 Assessment Requirements for Common Work Activities, Equipment and Workplaces
Table 3.2 lists many common work activities, equipment and workplaces, and provides an indication of whether assessments are likely to be required for:
- workers with active implants
- other workers at particular risk
- workers not at particular risk.
For complete guidance, please read the document.
Again, the table must be read in its entirety, and some references below do refer to employees not at particular risk, but some points which could be relevant to members include:
- Phones, mobile — use of.
- Wireless Communication Devices (e.g. Wi-Fi or Bluetooth) including access points for WLAN — use of.
- Electrical circuit where the conductors are close together and having a net current of greater than 100 A — includes wiring, switchgear, transformers, etc. — exposure to magnetic fields.
- Electrical circuits within an installation, with a phase current rating of greater than 100 A for the individual circuit — includes wiring, switchgear, transformers, etc. — exposure to magnetic fields.
- Generators and emergency generators — work on.
- Arc welding processes, manual (including MIG, MAG, TIG) when following good practice and not supporting cable on body.
- Battery chargers, industrial.
The remainder of the document comprises sections detailing:
Section 2 — Deciding Whether to Do More
Section 3 — Compliance Assessments
Section 4 — Need to Do More?
These should be studied, and a summary is not given in this FAQ.
Volume 2 comprises case studies of practical examples for guidance.
Volume 3 is a guide appropriate for SME’s.
Sources of information:
Here is a useful link to an HSE website here.
Please note that there is a link to HSE’S ‘A guide to the Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations 2016 HSG 281, also found here.
EU Directive 2013/35/EU and Guidelines have been published here
Note that there are links to volume 1, 2 and a guide to SME’s
This Directive has been transposed into UK Law as The Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations 2016 here.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) also have a health topic on this here.
There is also The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) here;
British Standards include:
BS EN 50527-1:2016 Procedure for the assessment of the exposure to electromagnetic fields of workers bearing active implantable medical devices. General
BS EN 50527-2-1:2016 Procedure for the assessment of the exposure to electromagnetic fields of workers bearing active implantable medical devices. Specific assessment for workers with cardiac pacemakers.
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