Electrostatic discharge (ESD) is a problem that affects almost every kind of business in the world. Indeed, static electricity and ESD have been a serious industrial problem for centuries, with history’s first static control procedures appearing as early as the 1400s. Long before the advent of the integrated circuit and its accompanying electronics, humanity struggled to mitigate the threat of electrostatic discharge.
Simple actions such as walking across workspace floors, dragging tools across and equipment across non-conductive surfaces, and standing rather than sitting in work areas all increase the risk of ESD.
To this end, companies with facilities that contain electrostatically-sensitive products, equipment and supplies must use specialized ESD equipment in order to protect their employees and safeguard their products from damage. Once established, these areas are referred to as ESD protected areas (EPAs). To enhance the safety of your EPA it’s essential that you create and implement an ESD control plan.
What Is ESD Equipment?
On a basic level, ESD equipment is anything that could ostensibly be used in an electrostatically sensitive work environment, such as a manufacturing floor, clean room, or circuit repair operation. ESD equipment can include construction tools, safety utilities, employee clothing, and even infrastructure elements, such as grounded power outlets.
Essential Pieces of ESD Equipment
Different work environments require different types of ESD equipment, depending on the scope of their operations. For instance, a computer repair shop won’t necessarily require as much specialized equipment as a printed circuit board fabricator. Some businesses may get away with a simple set of workshop tools, while others may require complex automated machines and gear, such as ionizers and conductive bins.
Most common tools are available in ESD-safe configurations, including:
- Bit holders
- Waste bins
Regardless of the size of a company, safety remains the most important objective of every work environment. With that in mind, most ESD-sensitive operations will need to ensure the use of:
- Grounding wrist straps and heel straps that eliminate static buildup on employees
- ESD floor and work surface mats that assist with discharge
- Static-resistive clothing, such as shoe covers and specialized work wear made with synthetic fibers
- Continuous monitors that help employees identify the effectiveness of their safety equipment
- Gloves and finger cots which allow workers to safely handle and work with ESD-sensitive equipment
- Specialized ESD packaging that protects sensitive electronic equipment during transit
If you’re looking to equip your workforce and ESD-proof your workspace you’ll want to research the equipment and supplies needed to support your safety program. Before purchasing your equipment it’s advisable to speak with team members, such as the safety director, manufacturing floor supervisor and technical director to make sure all the bases are covered.
Putting ESD Equipment to Use
The best way to implement an ESD-proof zone is to create an EPA using specialized equipment, supplies and tools. The protective area should be clearly marked with ESD tape, warning both those who enter and those who exit of the potential danger and how to mitigate risks. Each zone should be fully equipped with ESD mats, tools, supplies and signage so workers have clear safety directions and access to the necessary gear. Finally, only one worker can be stationed at each work bench to reduce the chances of ESD events occurring.