ESD control products such as wrist straps, bench mats, and floors are used to maintain an anti-static environment within ESD Protected Areas (EPAs). However, regular testing must be carried out to ensure ESD control products are functioning optimally.
This is an important requirement of the ESD standard 61340-5-1, issued by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). According to the IEC 61340-5-1, ESD wrist straps should be tested on a daily basis but ‘this may be omitted if continuous monitors are used’.
Every organisation with one or more EPAs should have an up-to-date ESD Control Program in place, as this enables operatives and supervisors to maintain an ESD-safe area at all times. A critical element of an ESD Control Program is the testing and monitoring of ESD control products. After all, ESD equipment must deliver optimal reliability to adequately protect against static discharge.
If an ESD control product fails, the impact of this failure may not be immediately apparent. By testing and monitoring control products regularly, however, operatives can confirm that their ESD equipment is fully functional.
Furthermore, routine testing and monitoring allow for performance degradation to be identified at an early stage. When test results indicate that ESD control products are losing their efficacy, they can be repaired or replaced before failures occur.
Choosing the right methods of testing and monitoring can have a significant impact on the time, cost, and accuracy of the data obtained. Due to this, it’s vital that EPA managers and operatives choose the right methodologies and equipment to monitor ESD control products.
As the name suggests, a constant monitor allows for continuous monitoring and simultaneously measures the Earth-to-ground connection of ESD bench mats and wrist straps while they are in use. Both mounted and portable constant monitors can be used to enhance your ESD monitoring protocols.
When wearing an ESD control wrist strap, for example, a worker can use a continuous wrist strap monitor to ensure that the wrist strap is working at all times. Typically, constant monitors use red and green LED lights to indicate whether the connected ESD control product is functioning. An operative can, therefore, determine whether their ESD strap or mat is working effectively simply by glancing at the constant monitor.
In addition to this, many constant monitors have an in-built alarm feature that will alert the worker if there is a failure in either the strap, mat, or the grounding connection. This, combined with the visual, light-based indication, ensures workers can take action immediately if their ESD control products fail.
Many constant monitors are capable of monitoring both ESD wrist straps and an ESD mat. This multi-functionality allows more than one ESD control product to be continually monitored, thus enhancing the level of safeguarding.
Constant monitors are easy to use and can be easily integrated into an EPA. As well as connecting a constant monitor to a power supply, you simply need to connect the monitor to Earth, as well as the ESD wrist strap and/or ESD mat you’re using.
Once all connections have been made, the continuous monitor should display a green LED light to confirm that the equipment is working and that your wrist strap and/or mat is grounded.
If a red light is shown and/or the alarm sounds, this indicates that there is a failure somewhere and that one or more of the connected ESD control products are not functioning adequately. At this point, the operative can check that the ESD control products, Earth, and power supply are properly connected and, if so, identify which item is failing. Following this, equipment can be repaired or replaced so that the EPA can be maintained.
Regular testing is essential in an EPA and using continuous monitors can have a variety of advantages over other methods of monitoring, such as:
When the performance of an ESD control product begins to decline, this may result in intermittent failures, rather than a complete failure to function.
If an operative tests their ESD wrist strap once per day, for example, the test may indicate that the strap is functioning, but this only confirms that it was functioning at the time it was tested. Minor failures throughout the day will not be picked up via single, daily testing, which may mean that static discharges are occurring, despite ESD control products being worn.
In contrast, continuous monitoring prevents these failures from happening by constantly tracking the efficacy of a wrist strap and/or ESD mat.
When operatives are required to test equipment daily, it can take up a considerable amount of time. Both the testing and recording process impacts a worker’s efficiency and adds to their workload, which can limit the overall efficiency of the staff and the organisation.
By using constant monitors, however, EPAs can eliminate the need for singular testing and increase efficiency accordingly.
With increased efficiency comes cost savings but this isn’t the only way that constant monitors can deliver fiscal benefits.
When workers have a constant monitor available on their work station, it eliminates the risk of static discharges going unnoticed. As ESD-sensitive items can sustain irreversible damage due to static build-up, losses can occur, even when a daily testing regime is in place.
With constant monitoring, however, failures are identified – and resolved – more quickly. This enables ESD control products to be upgraded or replaced as needed and prevents costly losses.
An ESD control program acts as a directive for all employees who enter or work in an EPA. By providing constant monitors to employees and incorporating continuous monitoring into your ESD control program, you can optimise and streamline the testing and monitoring process.
To find out more, take a look at our range of UK manufactured constant monitors or get in touch with our expert team to upgrade your ESD testing and monitoring protocols now.
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