What does ESD Protection mean, and why it should concern you?

ESD is an acronym that is increasingly bandied about, but what does it mean, and how does it affect you?

 ESD – Electrostatic Discharge

In a nutshell, ESD stands for electrostatic discharge; a phenomenon that we have all felt ourselves.  Ever walked across a carpet, to get a shock when subsequently touching something metal?  Then you have experienced an electrostatic discharge.

We are actually generating static electricity with our bodies on every movement – it cannot be avoided.  While we might not feel any static discharges weaker than 3,000 volts, any nearby delicate electrical components certainly will!

In addition, in many working environments, a simple spark of static discharge goes from component damaging to outright lethal; static-triggered fires are a leading cause of workplace blazes.

ESD-sensitive environments include more than just manufacturing facilities with computer parts.  They also include surgery theatres, ammunition factories, vehicle plants, aerospace manufacturing operations, mining facilities, local computer repair shops and even such places as flour mills!

ESD Workbenches

Electrostatic Discharge – A Hidden Risk

While we all probably know the effect of ourselves receiving a shock, it is not as commonly known how many electrostatic discharges pass us by unnoticed. Most commonly used components can be damaged by 100-200 volts, and the most sophisticated ones by as little as 5-10 volts.

Now take a look at this table, to put that into context: 

Noticing the Electrostatic Discharge Volts
Feeling the electrostatic discharge: 3500 Volts
Hearing the electrostatic discharge: 4500 Volts
Seeing the electrostatic discharge: 5000 Volts

It is very easy, therefore, to put your components in severe danger of damage without your knowing.

To take an example, at the computer you may be sitting at right now, the pickup heads on its hard drive can be damaged from voltages as low as 30 volts!

Such electrostatic damage to components is frequently impossible to detect – it may even pass final product testing without being caught.  Nevertheless, such damage can affect the reliability and operational life of the product, costing both customer and manufacturer.  The safest way to avoid such hard-to-detect ESD damage is to set up your workplace with the correct ESD resisting furniture.

ESD – The Risk of Fire

For health and safety risk assessments, the UK government highlights four sources of typical fire ignition – these are:

  • Hot surfaces
  • Electrical equipment
  • Smoking/naked lights
  • Static electricity

Of these four, the most frequently overlooked tends to be the danger of static electricity.  This contributes to the danger of this type of hazard.  In any workplace environment that houses flammable gases, liquids or solids, all that is needed is an ignition source – such as a stray spark caused by static electricity – to start a fire.

Not only is a fire one of the most costly, wasteful things that can ever happen to a business, but recent tightening of legislation means that non-compliance of fire safety regulations reaches all the way to the top.  CEO’s now risk personal liability if a company is found negligent after a fire.

ESD Protection – the Solution

At Key, we can supply a wide range of items to deal with the problem of ESD, whatever your workplace environment. Do you deal with delicate electronics, and so need full ESD protection in your lab/repair areas?  Are you in an environment with a high risk of fire?

Whatever the need, Key can step in to give you the solution.  An ESD-protected area is usually shortened to the acronym EPA, and Key can offer you the means and expertise to design an EPA for yourself that is compliant, safe and efficient.  We offer:

ESD Workbench

ESD Workbenches, designed to earth all static discharges safety, whilst maintaining efficient, ergonomic workstations.

ESD Matting to protect your workspace from the build-up of static electricity, whether floor matting or desk.

ESD Chairs with castors especially created to safeguard against friction, whilst still allowing full mobility.

ESD Workwear – boots, shoes, coveralls and wrist kits designed to earth electricity are all available at special prices, without comprising on protection offered.

Victoria Vaughan

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