Most people consider static electricity to be nothing more than a nuisance and the cause of the occasional shock. Sometimes you can see the electric arc and the result is painful. Static electricity on your clothes can cause them to stick. But, static electricity can be the driver of bigger problems, especially in the workplace.
One potentially dangerous situation in which static electricity can lead to serious, if not deadly outcomes, is if there is an airborne flammable – for example, gasoline particles – in the atmosphere of a place of business. Many construction sites and similar work areas must be on guard for static electricity when they are operating their machines and conducting business. Static can spark airborne gas particles and cause them to ignite with a potential explosion to follow.
Despite the possible danger of static causing harm to humans it rarely occurs. What is more likely to occur with static electricity is damage to electronics in the office such as computers and other machines. In fact, an ‘electrostatic discharge’ (ESD) is a miniature type of a lightning strike! And, while the full-size lightning bolts can be damaging, ESD can wreak havoc with circuit boards and destroy data and the inside of electronics.
There are suggestions for preventing static electricity from destroying your office equipment. Consider the following when reviewing your business setup.
• Invest in ESD wrist straps. An anti-static wrist strap is a piece of safety gear that should be a part of any anti-static preventative program. It is a strap that wraps around your wrist with a cord that attaches to the computer. The strap acts as a ground wire and works to prevent electrostatic damage to any machine that is sensitive to ESD.
• One of the worst conductors or sources of ESD are synthetic materials such as plastics. Do not place plastic items near computers. They could actually be the cause of a static discharge!
• Do not use compressed air to clean computer keyboards! While it may seem to make sense because nothing is actually touching the keyboard, what is happening is that spraying the dust creates ESD!
Other suggestions include treating carpets to lower the chance of ESD and installing static proof mats and regulating the humidity in the air.
If you need advice on ‘static-proofing’ your workplace, contact the professionals at J. M. Mullen Electrical Services.