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Everything You Need to Know About ESD Audits

Any company that handles any type of ESD sensitive product needs to be aware of the best practices for preventing electrostatic damage. Regular maintenance of ESD protected areas (EPAs) is an important part of an EPA Assessment and toward international ESD compliance standards. Therefore, ESD Audits are an important component of EPAs within organisations. In this article, we will guide you on what an ESD Audit is and how it contributes to an effective ESD Control Plan.

What Is an ESD Audit?

ESD audits are essential to a successful ESD Control Program. An ESD audit is designed to maintain the integrity and efficiency of your Electrostatic Protected Area (EPA) and to ensure that personnel are complying with your company’s rules and regulations for handling, storing, and transporting ESD-sensitive items.

However, there is more than one type of ESD audit and it’s important to understand the difference so that you can employ the correct checks at the right time. Here, we provide a brief overview of the three most common types of ESD audits:

1. Program Management Audits

This type of audit assesses how well a program is being managed and implemented. When applied to ESD and EPAs, a program management audit looks to confirm the existence of a functional implementation plan, along with realistic goals and regular on-site training programs

Program management audits are often carried out via survey, which gives employees the opportunity to self-report and provide qualitative information that can be used to enhance and optimise your ESD Control Plan.

2. Quality Process Audits

Applying quality control testing to ESD processing enables organisations to determine the efficacy of their electrostatic management workflows and highlights potential inadequacies. Checking the functionality of a grounding kit or a 10mm earth bonding cable will confirm whether the equipment serves its intended purpose, for example. 

Typically, quality process audits are undertaken by operational personnel and take the form of both visual and electric testing. The functionality of ESD equipment, such as an ESD wrist strap, anti slip mat, or user bench, is critical to maintaining a safe and effective EPA, which is why quality process audits are often conducted on a daily or weekly basis.

With accurate record-keeping, trends can be identified, and optimisation actions implemented. As well as helping you to comply with ISO 9000, this will help to improve the efficacy of your EPA and maximise workplace safety.

3. Compliance Verification Audit

An ESD Control Program Compliance Verification Audit seeks to determine whether procedures are being followed and whether ESD control equipment is functioning within the required limits. Generally, sampling techniques are used to conduct these types of audits, with statistical analysis subsequently applied so that audit results can be compared over time. The importance of compliance with ESD Control Plans means that compliance verification audits are carried out fairly frequently, with many companies undertaking this type of audit on a monthly basis. 

Once you’ve devised and implemented an ESD Control Plan, you’ll need to ensure compliance and regular ESD audits are one way to achieve this. A compliance verification ESD audit is designed to confirm whether personnel are adhering to your company’s ESD Control Plan and to highlight instances of non-compliance. Additionally, an ESD audit can be used to identify problematic workflows, lack of ESD equipment, and/or improper processes that could affect the integrity of your Electrostatic Protected Area (EPA). 

Which Areas Should be Audited?

Any ESD audit needs to give a comprehensive account of the efficacy of your ESD Control Plan, processes, and compliance, so it’s important that a variety of areas are included in your audits. Of course, any EPAs should be included in an ESD audit, but an ESD audit shouldn’t necessarily be limited to your EPAs. 

Any areas in which an ESD control measure is in place should be audited on a regular basis. Depending on your operations, this may include departments such as:

  • Research and development
  • Inspection and testing
  • Packaging and shipping
  • Receiving and inspection
  • Assembly
  • Cleanrooms
  • Warehousing and storage
  • Field service repair
  • Offices and laboratories

As well as auditing the areas that are included in your ESD Control Plan, remember to include some or all of the areas that are not included in your plan too. You’ll want to ensure that ESD-sensitive items are not being taken into non-EPAs, for example, and auditing these areas can confirm whether personnel are complying with the relevant regulations or whether additional control measures, such as workstation signage, need to be implemented. 

How Are Audits Conducted?

The methodologies used to conduct ESD audits will depend on what type of audit you’re carrying out. Program management audits are often undertaken via survey, for example, so no specialist equipment is required. When you’re completing Quality Process audits and testing the functionality of equipment, however, you’ll need to ensure that you have adequate testing devices. 

To conduct detailed ESD audits, organisations should have the following equipment available:

How Often Should Audits Be Conducted?

The frequency of ESD audits depends on a number of factors, so there are no set rules regarding how often you should carry out these types of audits. Despite this, frequent audits are advantageous as they allow you to identify problematic processes and behaviours at an early stage and enable you to implement corrective actions swiftly. 

In some situations, the frequency of ESD audits will depend on the type of ESD equipment that is being used. ESD wrist straps may be tested daily, for example, whereas permanent ESD flooring may only need to be audited on a monthly basis. 

Implementing Corrective Actions

The results of your ESD audits will identify where improvements and corrective actions are required. By using qualitative and quantitative data generated via audits to optimise your ESD Control Plan, you can ensure that meaningful improvements are obtained. 

For over 35 years, Bondline Electronics Ltd has developed a reputation for providing valuable quality anti-static control products and technical assistance to help your company maintain a safe EPA area and optimise your ESD processes. Our aim is to help our customers optimise and improve their ESD Control Programme to improve their systems, productions and overall product quality. With the help of our technical experts, we can help you improve and optimise your EPA with our ESD auditing service. Get in touch with our team today on 01793 511000, sales@bondline.co.uk or by filling the form below.

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