Electrostatic discharge can cause all sorts of interesting effects, but when it comes to static protection at work, it becomes a matter of protecting the safety of both the worker and their equipment. Static charges can cause many issues, including fatal explosions resulting from electrostatic discharges. Humans often don't feel electric shocks at lower voltages, however, these undetectable discharges can cause irreparable damage to electronics. As our industries and technologies advance the importance of anti-static PPE is only increasing.

What Is Static Charge?

Static charge is easiest to think of as a kind of imbalance on the surface of a material, where the electric charge is either positive or negative. The repeated contact of two items, for example, a balloon and your hair, can cause electrons to move from one to the other resulting in a positive or negative electric charge for both of the surfaces. However, contact is not the only way in which a surface becomes statically charged.

What Leads to a Build-Up of Static Charge in Present Day Industries?

Electrostatic discharge is far more common in nowadays industrial environments for two main reasons: Increased use of man-made equipment such as plastic, which holds the static charge for longer periods of time Air conditioning and dry air heating means that humidity levels are reduced, exacerbating static electricity.

What Is Electrostatic Discharge?

If two statically charged objects, one negative and one positive, come into contact then this can result in a sudden flow of electricity between them. This flow of electricity is electrostatic discharge, which can result in something as large-scale as lightening to something as small-scale as an entirely silent and invisible discharge.

What Is the Difference Between Electric Discharge and an Electrical Arc?

For clarification, it's worth noting that electrostatic discharge can create, but doesn't necessarily need to create, an electrical arc. as an example, lightning is both an electrostatic discharge and an electrical arc. However, some electrostatic discharges are gradual, invisible and continuous, and in these cases, an arc flash doesn't occur.

What Are the Risks of Electrostatic Discharge?

Electrostatic discharge can result in three important negative consequences: Risk of Bodily Harm If a machine operator receives a shock from the merchandise they're working with they'll suffer from the pain of the shock, and it'd easily throw them off balance leading to further injury. Simply standing within the field of force of a charged object may result in this effect. If a machine does cause an electrical shock it must be shifted for an inspection, which ends up in wasted time and productivity. Risk of Damaging Electronics Even in cases where the voltage of the electrostatic discharge is extremely low, products like circuit boards and microchips may be irreparably damaged by electrical overstress. Risk of Explosion A tiny spark caused by little electrostatic discharge can easily function as an ignition source in combustible environments. These explosions may be extremely dramatic and have resulted in industrial tragedies like the events occurring in an exceeding grain silo within the Southwest of France and a paint plant in Thailand.