When you work with sensitive electronic products, you know that static electricity is one of the problems affecting company safety and profitability. Electrostatic discharge (ESD) is an ongoing issue, even for organizations that don’t directly handle electronic products, such as hospitals. Regardless of the industry or company type, the first line of defense against the effects of static electricity is to establish and implement approved ESD grounding requirements.
Getting a Handle on ESD Grounding Requirements
To determine your specific ESD grounding requirements, you must first identify the areas where grounding is needed. These areas can include:
- Manufacturing floors
- Work benches
- Packing and shipping centers
- Clean rooms
- Research and development labs
ESD grounding requirements are, in essence, a codified form of static control as set out in the American National Standards Institute S20.20. By creating an official written policy that outlines how employees should ground themselves and their equipment, you can expect to experience an increase in safety that minimizes the risk of damage to both personnel and products. Static control is the act of defining the amount of control needed, and subsequently creating a plan to allow for static dissipation. Naturally, this plan for static dissipation is largely concerned with how your organization handles ESD grounding.
Determining Your ESD Grounding Requirements
Your company’s ESD grounding requirements will generally depend on the size of your workspace, as well as the type of work that your company performs.
Smaller work environments, such as computer repair shops, will need to adhere to just the basic ESD grounding requirements. In practice, this involves providing a two-step grounding solution for employees and work equipment.
- The first step is to connect all equipment and personnel to a common ground point. This could be a grounding wrist strap, a dissipative work mat, or anything else that allows a static charge to dissipate.
- The second step involves connecting the common ground point to the grounding conductor.
For larger facilities, such as Hospitals, more stringent ESD grounding requirements need to be followed due to the extremely sensitive nature of their work. The nature of modernized hospitals means they have a strong chance of containing flammable or explosive gasses, making static electrical events more dangerous than ever. Strict protective measures are especially important to enforce in these types of situations.
Operations with large working environments will often require the establishment of ESD protected areas (EPA). EPAs are sections of the workspace that are partitioned off from the rest of the facility and specially marked to notify employees and visitors of the potential for electrostatic events.
ESD Grounding Requirements Are All About Protection
As one might expect, the ultimate purpose of ESD grounding requirements is the ongoing safety of personnel working in the EPA, as well as the facility at large. Safety begins with the use of duly-enforced ESD grounding requirements within an EPA.
These grounding requirements help protect employees because they work to reduce the threat of harmful discharge. Although static shocks themselves may not be very painful, they can cause serious injuries and health complications when allowed to escalate. In extreme circumstances, static shocks can even cause fires and severe electrical shocks, in addition to interfering with personal electronic medical equipment, such as hearing aids and pacemakers.
Time to Get Equipped
To reach full compliance with your company’s ESD grounding requirements, you will almost certainly have to use grounding wrist straps, antistatic work mats, and earth bonding plugs. These are standard industry equipment used for controlling and dissipating static electricity.
If your facility includes the presence of a clean room, there will be a greater need for specialized equipment and cleaning chemicals in order to meet ESD grounding requirements. Clean rooms often require the use of full-body anti-static safety suits, ionized blowers, and antistatic work tools.
Review the ESD threats within your work environment, determine the level of ESD grounding requirements needed, and then create a plan to maximize safety.