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To the Beat of a Pacemaker

07:31AM Sep 30, 2014

Modified activities and precautions might be necessary for farmers

If your doctor is advising you to get a pacemaker, have you asked about how it will impact your ability to farm?

Steve Cornett, former editor of Beef Today and a cattle rancher from Canyon, Texas, has been sporting a pacemaker for two years. In his case, a pacemaker was necessary to speed up his heart at night. Thankfully, the pacemaker is regulating his heart rate, but it has impacted his day-to-day activities. 

“My doctor doesn’t want me to ride a horse. Evidently, the bouncing up and down will make my pacemaker think I’m exercising, which will speed up my heart,” Cornett says. 

Once, he recalls getting a pretty good shock from an electric fence. Unsure of what to do, he called his doctor, who asked he come in for a checkup. “Evidently, it did no damage to my pacemaker, but still, you have to be careful,” Cornett says.

Roland Miller, a farmer from southwestern Nebraska, had open heart surgery 13 years ago. For the past seven years, he has needed a pacemaker and defibrillator combination because of an erratic heartbeat. Miller’s doctor advised him not to work on a running engine, primarily because it requires leaning over for an extended period of time. He’s also not supposed to run a chainsaw close to his chest or carry a cell phone in his left shirt pocket. 

Miller’s biggest restriction, however, is no longer being able to hunt because he shoots left-handed. “I absolutely can’t shoot a gun because of the kick of the gun. It will drive me into orbit,” he explains.

Ultimately, it’s up to a doctor to suggest any modifications to farm activities based on the individual and type of pacemaker. 

Important Safety Tips If You Have a Pacemaker

Most modern pacemakers have built-in features to protect them from various types of interference produced by electrical devices, but some activities common for farmers are exceptions.

No Known Risk 

If the following items are used as intended and in good working condition, there is no known risk: 

  • Battery powered calipers 
  • Battery powered flashlight
  • Laser level 
  • Soldering iron 
  • Stud finder 

Minimal Risk 

Maintain a minimum of 6" distance between the following tools and your heart device: 

  • Circular saw (skill saw) 
  • Battery and electric powered drills 
  • Handheld grinder  
  • Electric powered hedge trimmer 
  • Electric powered lawn mower 
  • Electric powered leaf blower  
  • Reciprocating saw 
  • Router 
  • Sander 
  • Battery powered screwdriver 
  • Soldering gun 
  • Electric powered weed whacker

Special Considerations 

Maintain at least the recommended distance between the following items and your heart device: 

12" 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, snow-blower, weed whacker) 
  • Generators: 20 kW or less 2' Distance 
  • Bench mounted/freestanding tools with 400 hp or less motors (air compressor, drill presses, grinder, pressure washer, table saw) 
  • Jumper cables