THE BRIGHT SP Static-electricity can spell disaster in the manufacturing industry. With thi

The smart technology that’s now utilised in a wide range of market sectors provides a wealth of advantages – but it’s only any good if it can be trusted to work reliably and effectively.

Many working environments are now heavily reliant on complex computer equipment, however if the sensitive circuitry within these machines is compromised then it can lead to a long list of problems.

For some businesses, the very floor underfoot can be a concern – as staff can build up enough static electricity when walking across the floor to pose a threat to the computers onsite. In fact, many electrical components can be destroyed by a discharge of only 300 volts, however one person walking across the floor can quickly generate up to 3,000 volts, which can jump via an electro-static discharge (ESD) into vulnerable apparatus.

This has significant implications for anywhere that relies on delicate hardware, such as data warehouses, R&D sites, clean rooms and laboratories. It’s a particular problem for the electronics manufacturing industry, which loses significant sums of money every year in damaged goods and broken equipment.

The ESD Association states that static could account for up to 33% of the electronics industry’s losses and that as devices get smaller and faster, their sensitivity to ESD only increases.

For some sectors, static electricity poses an even more dangerous risk, as if there are explosive substances present then the spark created by even a small electro-static discharge can become an ignition source. This is often the case with environments such as munitions manufacturing, hyperbaric chambers, oil & gas facilities and military installations.

Flooring with anti-static properties has become a key part of many industry’s ESD risk management, as they are a highly effective way of removing any charge being built up in a person and safely taking it away to an appropriate earthing point.

Anti-static floors aren’t all the same though and are ordered

into categories depending on how quickly electricity can move through them. Surfaces with the least resistance are defined as conductive. Dissipative floors allow electricity to flow through at a controlled speed and the most resistant floors are called insulative.

The BS EN 61340-5-1 standard includes a method for determining the resistance of a floor through point to point conductivity testing. The result of this will determine whether the floor can be categorised as conductive, dissipative or insulative.

In general, this type of flooring works by using specialist conductive materials that take away any charge a person has built up as soon as their foot comes into contact with the coating. This contact kicks off a chain reaction that results in the charge being safely removed down through the floor.

The charge moves from the floor finish into a conductive primer that has been filled with carbon to ensure a low level of resistance. Finally, the charge goes into a copper tape buried under the floor coating which is connected to a safe earthing point. It is possible to create a floor that removes static charge without using copper tape, however it won’t be as conductive as a floor that does.

Without an earthing point the floor cannot be considered anti-static, as charges that go into it will simply build up. An earthing point is usually a highly conductive metal rod driven deep into the building’s slab, however other options could include using the building’s steel beams or attaching the copper tape to a plug socket.

Making sure that a floor meets a site’s anti-static needs requires an understanding of the location’s operational activity, how the floor build up works to remove this threat as well as the role that other factors such as testing and personnel clothing play.


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