Hazard Alert- Pacemaker

Published in the Research School of Physics Event Horizon
Vol43 Issue38 9–13 October 2017

Work Environment Group Number 7 (28 September 2017)

Hazard Alert - Pacemakers and Electromagnetic Fields in Laboratories

To provide information associated with electromagnetic exposure to Pacemakers while working in laboratories and guidance on planning and implementation of controls to reduce risks.

What is a Pacemaker?
A Pacemaker is a small device (consists of a generator and wires) that is placed under the skin in patient’s chest to help control abnormal heart rhythms. This device uses low-energy electrical impulses to prompt the heart to beat to a normal rate.

What is Electromagnetic Field (EMF) and risk of EMF interference with Pacemakers?
EMF occupies the lower part of the electromagnetic spectrum in the frequency range 0-3000Hz. EMF result from electrically charged particles. The sources of EMF can be natural or artificial. The main sources in laboratories are RF generators and other electrical apparatus. However, the strength of the electric field depends on voltage and strength of the magnetic field depends on the size of the current carried.
The impact of EMF will vary between implanted pacemaker and ranges from no change in function to temporary or permanent loss of defibrillation. The risk factors of EMF on Pacemakers are:

  • Failure of a Pacemaker after exposure; and
  • Degradation of performance of the Pacemaker after accumulated effect of EMF.

Factors determining the impact of EMF on Pacemakers are:

  • The type of Pacemaker;
  • Proximity on implanted device to the radiation;
  • Type and energy of beam;
  • EM inference; and
  • Shielding of the implanted device.

Implementation of controls to minimise the risks of working in laboratories with Pacemakers include:

  • Notify your supervisor before commencing work;
  • Worker Pacemaker dependency;
  • EMF measurements in working space;
  • Manufactures guideline with regards to EMF measurements;
  • Physician recommendation about routine monitoring of Pacemaker;
  • Medical Clearance certificate from Physician; and
  • Risk assessments.

Who to Contact?
Workers and students must bring Pacemakers to the attention of their supervisor and the Radiation Safety Officer (RSO) as soon as possible. RSOs should contact WEG via whs@anu.edu.au for further information.

Take down: 31/11/2017 Intended Audience: All ANU
Contact: whs@anu.edu.au for additional information Authorised by: Work Environment Group

Workers are reminded to report all hazards and incidents to their supervisor and through Figtree, the University’s
Workplace safety incident and hazard reporting tool.

Updated:  30 September 2022/ Responsible Officer:  Director, RSPhys/ Page Contact:  Physics Webmaster