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7 Ways to Protect Your Workspace from ESD Damage

If you work with static sensitive electronic components, you need to follow strict ESD rules and comply with the IEC-61340-1-5 International Standard. But it’s easy to accidentally cause ESD damage when working on your project. Most electrical components are damaged by ESD during the assembly process. Often this damage is due to a lack of anti-static mats and grounding equipment. To best protect your static sensitive components from ESD, use an anti-static cover or tabletop underlayment to avoid static build-up between the item and insulating surfaces. Here are seven ways to protect your workspace from ESD damage.

How to Make Your Workspace ESD Safe

The best thing you can do for a productive, safe, happy workspace is to ensure an ESD-safe environment. The phenomenon of electrostatic discharge (ESD) is the result of a sudden electrical current flowing between two objects. The phenomenon typically occurs when two objects make physical contact with each-other. Even if hands or any parts of the human body are put in contact with a surface with ESD, it will generate static electricity shocking everyone. If static electricity transfers to the hands and you touch a static sensitive object, you could inflict an ESD onto the object and damage it. This is why it is so important to protect your workspace.

Minimise the Risk of ESD by Making It Safe

All of these can increase the risk of an ESD event, including insulating clothes, general tools, and personal items like radios, picture frames, water bottles and purses. There are almost always variations of these items in most work environments. So it’s important to take safety precautions so that employees and static sensitive equipment are protected. The dangers of ESD are extremely high in production warehouses, assembly lines, and workshops. It is important to understand if the surroundings and surfaces in the workplace are ESD prone in order to help you make informed decisions on how to address the issue, and the active mechanisms that can be implemented to mitigate and curb these instances.

Conductive Versus Insulator Materials:

The charge on an object that is made with conductive materials can be transferred easily across its entire surface since electrons can flow freely from particle to particle. Conductors are materials that allow electrons to flow freely between particles. Conversely, insulators stop electrons from flowing freely. During a transfer, electrons are restricted from going from atom to atom and from molecule to molecule so that excess charge stays in the initial location of charging. Conductors can be made to transmit electricity less efficiently using conductor isolators.

Examples of typical insulators you will have come across are plastic, wood, and glass. Conductors, on the other hand, can be in the form of metals like copper, iron, and steel. As with anti-static equipment, you will find that most of these items are made with conductive materials or properties. Whether that be benches, lab coats, or static shielding bags. Many benches and tables in a workplace are made from wood – a material which can build-up static charge. This can be an issue when working on static sensitive components. The best type of bench to have in this situation is a metal (conductive) workbench which will allow a path to Earth and protect your workspace – given that the appropriate ESD-safe flooring is in place.

You Can Create an ESD-Safe Workspace by Doing the Following Three Things:

  • Replace all tools with static-dissipative tools
  • Wear ESD-safe clothing
  • Make all surfaces ESD-safe
  • Make use of anti-static wrist straps
  • Conduct regular spot checks and maintenance routines to ensure your area is ESD-safe and complies to the IEC-61340-1-5 International Standard
  • Educate your employees on ESD control by providing them with training
  • Create an ESD safe area

ESD-Safe Equipment

It is imperative to protect your workspace from ESD damage which is why you should invest in the right equipment. There are many pieces of equipment that can contribute to ESD events. These include paper, pens, cups, screwdrivers, pliers, workbenches and anything else that you can imagine. There are three simple steps you can take to minimise the risk of static damage from these types of equipment:

1) To replace all unsafe, insulating equipment with ESD-safe equipment by purchasing anti-static supplies from a reputable supplier.
2) Conduct checks on employees when entering and exiting the Electrostatic Protected Area (EPA) to ensure they are in compliance to the IEC-61340-1-5 International Standard.
3) Review work areas to ensure any insulating equipment is removed and / or replaced with the appropriate ESD-safe materials.

The cost of purchasing ESD-safe equipment, plus providing ESD training for your employees can be expensive. However, utilising ESD control equipment and training staff on ESD are far better investments to make when considering the costs of replacing damaged electrical components; due to lack of training or damage caused by insulating objects. Damage can lead up to thousands and thousands of pounds in costly replacements! With employees trained on the subject of ESD and ESD-safe equipment being utilised in the workplace, it creates a safe area for the handling, transportation, and assembly of static sensitive components.

ESD-Safe Clothing

The friction we create while we move can cause an electrical charge to form. It’s important to remember that our clothing has a big impact on the ability of a charge to develop. Wearing clothing that is ESD-safe eliminates triboelectric generation by stretching fibres rather than breaking them. This is because most ESD-safe clothing is made from man-made fabrics, minimising static and creating a safer work environment. You should try to look for ESD-safe clothes that are made from polyester or cotton that have a line of carbon fibre embedded inside the material. These fibres effectively create a Faraday Cage around the body of the personnel wearing the clothing. Shielding and dissipating any charges generated that could otherwise damage static sensitive components. These types of material greatly reduce the possibility of electrical generation in the clothes.

ESD-Safe Surfaces

Protect your workspace by investing in ESD-safe surfaces for your Electrostatic Protected Area (EPA). All ESD-related furniture, such as chairs, tables, floors, and walls, need to be evaluated. ESD-safe floor mats must be placed on the floor to prevent electrostatic discharge. When workers stand instead of sitting, they increase their likelihood of experiencing an ESD event. Grounding workspace elements is also extremely important to prevent ESD events. Grounding equipment such as wrist straps, heel straps, and other grounding devices can protect the workforce and static sensitive equipment from ESD.

Use ESD Wrist Straps

Use an ESD-safe wrist strap whenever you are working with components that could be affected by ESD, and make sure that it is in direct contact with your skin. ESD-safe wrist straps come in a variety of materials, but the general concept for each is the same; to provide a path to ground. The human body is capable of building up static electricity when in contact with another insulating object / surface. Whether you are assembling or handling static sensitive components at your workbench, it is highly recommended to wear an anti-static wrist strap to enable full protection from static discharge. In fact, wearing an ESD-safe wrist strap is one of the first steps you should take when considering ESD control. It’s simple to use, cost-effective, and provides sufficient ESD protection for most duties.

For an ESD control wrist strap to work, it is either connected to Earth bonding points fitted into workstations, typically via 10mm press studs, or come with a removable coiled cord and crocodile clip for mobile applications. If you work in a highly sensitive environment such as a Cleanroom, you may want to couple your wrist-strap with static-dissipating gloves for superior protection. This in turn will protect your workspace from even the most sensitive ESD damage.

Conduct Regular Spot Checks and Maintenance Routines

Like in any other situation and case, precaution is better than reacting to the situation. Normally, ESD does not happen in one night; it is accumulated as a result of negligence in checking and the overuse of equipment without proper maintenance and checkups. In other words, if the management is proactive in spotting equipment, surfaces and areas where ESD can potentially build up and implement the necessary measures, it will not cause any expensive costs to the company, not to mention, maintaining the safety of assets and alike. Companies who supply anti-static equipment may also provide ESD auditing services where they can help to ensure all of your areas are ESD-safe and working towards specific ESD guidelines and standards.

Educate Your Employees On ESD Control

Providing your employees with training on ESD control is one of the best practices you can do. It is not just an investment but it also ensures that employees are actively engaged in maintaining the safety of the workplace. After all, the problem of ESD is for everyone in the company and not just the management themselves. Educating your employees on ESD control can reduce ESD-related problems that you may have experienced before and increase productivity.

ESD Safe Environment

It’s time to turn your attention to the actual environment now that you have a good understanding of the equipment you need and routines you should follow. When you’re working in an environment that’s relatively humid, an ESD event is possibly more likely to occur. Having dry air is safer for the environment from the danger of static electricity build-up. For your workspace to be static electricity-free, you need a relative humidity between 30% and 70%. Below that value, it is recommended that you use ionisation. Your ESD safe environment should be free of any insulating equipment and replaced with the right anti-static tools, benches, and surfaces. Your set-up should be simple but effective, and provide clear identification of an ESD protected area to your employees. Signs and labels are a great way to remind staff and visitors of the ESD policies. Remember! In order for a complete static safe environment, you must conduct regular checks and maintenance routines to ensure all equipment is operating efficiently and in compliance to the IEC-61340-1-5 International Standard. Once this has all been checked off, you are ready to begin making your workspace safe from ESD damage.

Bondline Can Help You With All ESD Needs!

Whether that’s providing ESD training, audits, installations or static control products, we can help you! Bondline’s expert sales team can help you select the right static control products for your needs. Plus, provide expert guidance on creating a static-free work area. Feel free to give us a call on 01793 511000 or an email to sales@bondline.co.uk where one of our friendly team members will be in touch with you.

Looking for a place to start? Discover our wide range of Static Control Products or contact us to discuss best ways to protect your workspace.

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