What is ESD – and how can it affect you?

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What is ESD?

ESD stands for electrostatic discharge. It’s defined as the sudden flow or transfer of electricity between two electrically charged objects, often caused by direct contact and separation of people and materials and induction of charge by merely having charged materials or people within close vicinity of each other.

On a day to day basis, we often feel sudden ESD shocks when we grab the handrail of a moving escalator, when we take our clothes out of the tumble dryer, or even when we come into contact with another person. (People hold onto electricity, after all!). 

ESD can take us by surprise and make us jump, but it’s generally nothing to worry about. Unless you work in a manufacturing environment, that is. 

How can it affect your work environment?

While ESD isn’t usually dangerous in itself, it can wreak havoc with electronic products and their components. This means it’s a very real yet very hidden enemy to engineering and manufacturing firms. 

If an ESD event – that electric shock reaction – occurs on or near to sensitive electronic parts like microchips, there is a chance they will end up damaged. This damage could be immediately noticeable (for example, in the form of a malfunction or failure), but it could also lead to what’s called a latent defect, which could affect the product at any point in its lifespan.

What’s most concerning is that the damage caused by ESD can’t always be spotted during quality control procedures. A product could appear to be perfectly fine as it’s passing through the final factory checks, then underperform or ‘break’ when it comes to being used. As you can imagine, this can be incredibly frustrating for the end customer, who would have unknowingly purchased an unworkable product – not to mention the supplier, who may suffer negative press and loss of business as a result.

How can you prevent ESD in the workplace?

If ESD is a problem for your company, you can take active steps to protect your equipment and environment from the damaging effects of this common phenomenon. 

One of the most effective ways to combat the damaging effects of ESD is to set up an ESD Control Plan. The steps you need to follow will depend on the nature of your business, the processes you have in place and whether your workforce are fully educated on the causes and effects of ESD.

That said, your Control Plan will typically involve:

  • Working out what you need to protect, i.e. your static sensitive devices (ESDS)
  • Becoming familiar with the industry standards for ESD control
  • Determining grounding methods
  • Defining and identifying your workplace’s ESD Protected Area (EPA)

You may need to invest in anti-static chairs, grounded workbenches and static dissipative matting to combat ESD. 

And at a practical level, you may also need to make sure that the clothes your workforce are wearing and the accessories they’re using aren’t contributing to the problem. 

Anti-static garments, partnered with ESD compliant footwear, can prevent ESD build-up and keep your equipment safe from harm. These specialist products work by minimising the ESD fields that are generated from clothing in conjunction with ESD shoes that directly ground the wearer to a compliant floor or mat, safely and quickly dissipating the static charge on mobile personnel.

The standard that specifically deals with electrostatic discharge is BS EN 61340-5-1 (IEC 61340-5-1) ‘Protection of electronic devices from electrostatic phenomena’, and you’ll need to make sure your chosen footwear has been approved to this level if you want to ensure maximum ESD protection. 

OrthoSole insoles have been engineered to meet the requirements of BS EN 61340-5-1 and when used in conjunction with fully compliant ESD footwear, will keep ESD to a minimum in your work environment.

To learn more about how OrthoSole insoles can be used to combat ESD in your workplace, contact our team today! 

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