ESD Personnel Grounding Equipment

Have you ever walked across a car park on a bright cold winter’s day only to get zapped by your car’s door handle? It’s commonly known that these ‘zaps’ are much more common in cold dry weather. It begs the question: if there are less ‘zap, will using air humidifiers in a manufacturing environment prevent ESD damage of sensitive components? Let’s find out!

 

Humidity

Humidity describes the amount of water vapor in the air. There are 3 main measurements of humidity with the most common one being the relative humidity (RH). It is expressed in percent and describes “how much humidity there is in the air, compared to how much there could be. Meteorologists often use the relative humidity as a measurement to describe the weather at various places.” [Source]

At 0% the air is completely dry; at 100% it is so moist that mist or dew can form. The optimum relative humidity level is somewhere between 40% and 60%:

  • A lower relative humidity increases charge generation as the environment is drier.
  • If the humidity level is too high, condensation can form on surfaces.

 

Charge Generation and ElectroStatic Discharge (ESD)

The simple separation of two surfaces generates an ElectroStatic charge. Examples:

  • Unwinding a roll of tape
  • Gas or liquid moving through a hose or pipe
  • A person walking across a floor with heels and soles contacting and separating from the floor

 

Walking across a floor generates ElectroStatic charges.
Walking across a floor generates ElectroStatic charges.

 

The amount of static electricity generated varies and is affected by materials, friction, area of contact and the relative humidity of the environment. A higher charge is generated at low humidity or in a dry environment.

Once an item has generated a charge, it will want to come into balance. If it is in close enough proximity to a second item, there can be a rapid, spontaneous transfer of electrostatic charge. This is called discharge or ElectroStatic Discharge (ESD).

Going back to our earlier example of getting a zap from your car’s door handle:

  1. Charge generation: you walk across the car park with your soles contacting and separating from the floor. A charge is built-up on you.
  2. ElectroStatic Discharge (ESD): you touch the door handle. Charges move from your body to your car until both are balanced out.

 

Impact of relative humidity on ESD

Many people will notice a difference in the ability to generate static electricity when the air gets dryer (relative humidity decreases). Relative humidity (RH) directly affects the ability of a surface to store an electrostatic charge. “With a humidity level of 40% RH, surface resistance is lowered on floors, carpets, table mats and other areas. … the moisture in the air forms a thin protective “film” on surfaces that serves as a natural conductor to dissipate electric charges. When humidity drops below 40% RH, this protection disappears, and normal employee activities lead to objects being charged with static electricity.” [Source]

ESD Damage on an integrated circuit. No Magnification, 400x magnification, 5,000x magnification.

In an electronics manufacturing environment lower humidity may result in lower output from production due to an increase in ESD events during manufacturing processes.

 

Air Humidification and ESD

Air humidifiers are used to add moisture to the air and are commonly used in drier environments to keep humidity at a constant (optimum) level. Given that a lower humidity level increases the risk of ESD events, the obvious questions are:

  1. Can air humidifiers replace normal ESD Control measures?
  2. Are air humidifiers required for complete ESD protection?

Let’s address both questions:

  • Let’s be very clear about one thing here: air humidifiers cannot replace ESD Control measures.

As explained further above, ESD is caused by two items that are at a different electrostatic equipotential and want to equalize their charges. Adding moisture to the air using humidifiers will not stop this discharge from happening. The only thing you may achieve is a reduction in the number of ESD events. BUT: they will still happen; just walking across a carpet will generate a charge on an operator. If they then touch an ESD sensitive component, discharge will still occur and may damage the component. No humidifier will prevent this.

The only way to control electrostatic charges on a person or object is through ESD grounding – this will ensure any charges generated dissipate to earth:

For more information on how to create a ESD workstation and how to correctly ground all elements, have a look at this post.

Wrist-Strap.jpg
Grounding of an operator using a wrist strap
  • Low air humidity can increase the number of ESD events so it may make sense to keep a factory at a higher humidity level. However, there are many other factors that come into play when choosing the ‘right’ humidity for a manufacturing environment. The recommended humidity range is usually determined by the specifications of the devices and components being assembled. Increasing the humidity in an electronics manufacturing facility can help to reduce ESD events but increased humidity can lead to other unwanted quality issues in an electronics manufacturing environment such as corrosion, soldering defects and the popcorn effect on moisture sensitive devices.

A normal range for humidity in electronics manufacturing is between 30% RH and 70% RH. Some facilities try to maintain a constant moderate RH (~50%), whereas other environments may want lower % RH due to corrosion susceptibility to humidity sensitive parts.
And remember: you will not eliminate ESD by using humidifiers and keeping humidity levels at a higher level. You need an ESD Control Program in place to avoid ESD and associated damages.

 

Conclusion

Air humidification can help reduce the number of ESD events in an electronics manufacturing environment but at the same time there are other factors (e.g. moisture sensitivity of components) that need to be considered.

A lower relative humidity level increases charge generation as the environment is drier. This will result in more ESD events which can potentially damage sensitive components. The only way to protect sensitive components from ESD damage is by having proper ESD control measures in place and connecting operators, objects and surfaces to ground. This will ensure each element is kept at the same electrical potential and any electrostatic discharge is being removed to ground.

For more information on how to get your ESD control program off the ground or improve an existing program, request a free ESD/EOS Assessment at your facility by one of our knowledgeable local representatives to evaluate your ESD program and answer any ESD questions!

 

The best-equipped service bench in your shop can be a real money-maker when set up properly. It can also be a source of frustration and lost revenue if the threat of ElectroStatic Discharge (ESD) is ignored.

A typical scenario might be where an electronic product is brought in for service, properly diagnosed and repaired, only to find a new symptom requiring additional repair. Unless the technician understands the ESD problem and has developed methods to keep it in check damage from static electricity cannot be ruled out as a potential source of the new problem.

Static electricity is nothing new; it’s all around us and always has been. What has changed is the spread of semiconductors in almost every consumer product we buy. As device complexity increases, often its static sensitivity increases as well. Some semiconductor devices may be damaged by as little as 20-30 volts!

It is important to note that this post is addressing the issue of ESD in terms of control, and not elimination. The potential for an ESD event to occur cannot be completely eliminated outside of a laboratory environment, but we can greatly reduce the risk with proper training and equipment. By implementing a good static control program and developing some simple habits, ESD can be effectively controlled.

The Source of the Problem

Static is all around us. We occasionally will see or feel it by walking on carpet, touching something or someone and feeling the “zap” of a static discharge. The perception level varies but static charge is typically 2000-3000 volts before we can feel it. ESD sensitivity of some parts is under 100 volts – well below the level that we would be able to detect.

Even though carpet may not be used around the service bench, there are many other static “generators” may not be obvious and frequently found around or on a service bench. The innocent-looking Styrofoam coffee cup can be a tremendous source of static. The simple act of pulling several inches of adhesive tape from a roll can generate several thousand volts of static! Many insulative materials will develop a charge by rubbing them or separating them from another material. This phenomenon is known as “tribocharging” and it occurs often where there are insulative materials present.

Tape.JPG
Sources of Charge Generation: Unwinding a Roll of Tape

People are often a major factor in generation of static charges. Studies have shown that personnel in a manufacturing environment frequently develop 5000 volts or more just by walking across the floor. Again, this is “tribocharging” produced by the separation of their shoes and the flooring as they walk.

A technician seated at a non-ESD workbench could easily have a 400-500 volt charge on his or her body caused not only by friction or tribocharging, but additionally by the constant change in body capacitance that occurs from natural movements. The simple act of lifting both feet off the floor can raise the measured voltage on a person as much as 500-1000 volts.

Setting up a “Static Safe” Program

Perhaps the most important factor in a successful static control program is developing an awareness of the “unseen” problem. One of the best ways to demonstrate the ESD hazard is by using a “static field meter”. The visual impact of locating and measuring static charges of more than 1000 volts will get the attention of skeptical individuals.

718.jpg
Static Field Meter – find more information here

Education of Personnel

ESD education and awareness are essential basic ingredients in any effective static control program. A high level of static awareness must be created and maintained in and around the protected area. Once personnel understand the potential problem, reinforce the understanding by hanging up static control posters in strategic locations. The technician doesn’t need an unaware and/or unprotected person wandering over and touching things on the service bench.

Workstation Grounding

To minimize the threat of an ESD event, we need to bring all components of the system to the same relative potential and maintain that potential. Workstations can be grounded with the following options:

  1. Establish an ESD Common Grounding Point, an electrical junction where all ESD grounds are connected to. Usually, a common ground point is connected to ground, preferably equipment ground.
  2. The Service Bench Surface should be covered with a dissipative material. This can be either an ESD-type high-pressure laminate formed as the benchtop surface, or it may be one of the many types of dissipative mats placed upon the benchtop surface. The mats are available in different colors, with different surface textures, and with various cushioning effects. Whichever type is chosen, look for a material with surface resistivity of 1 x 109 or less, as these materials are sufficiently conductive to discharge objects in less than one second. The ESD laminate or mat must be grounded to the ESD common grounding point to work properly. Frequently, a one Megohm current limiting safety resistor is used in series with the work surface ground. This blog post will provide more information on how to choose and install your ESD working surface.
ESD-Worksurface-Matting.jpg
Types of Worksurface Matting – click here for more information
  1. A Dissipative Floor Mat may also be used, especially if the technician intends to wear foot-grounding devices. The selection of the floor mat should take into consideration several factors. If anything is to roll on the mat, then a soft, cushion-type mat will probably not work well. If the tech does a lot of standing, then the soft, anti-fatigue type will be much appreciated. Again, the mat should be grounded to the common ground point, with or without the safety resistor as desired.
  2. Workstation Tools and Supplies should be selected with ESD in mind. Avoid insulators and plastics where possible on and around the bench. Poly bags and normal adhesive tapes can generate substantial charges, as can plastic cups and glasses. If charge-generating plastics and the like cannot be eliminated, consider using one of the small, low cost air ionizers It can usually be mounted off the bench to conserve work area, and then aimed at the area where most of the work is being done. The ionizer does not eliminate the need for grounding the working surface or the operator, but it does drain static charges from insulators, which do not lend themselves to grounding.

Personnel Grounding

People are great static generators. Simple movements at the bench can easily build up charges as high as 500-1000 volts. Therefore, controlling this charge build-up on the technician is essential. The two best known methods for draining the charge on a person are wrist straps with ground cords and foot or heel grounders. Personnel can be grounded through:

  1. Wrist Straps are probably the most common item used for personnel grounding. They are comprised of a conductive band or strap that fits snugly on the wrist. The wrist strap is frequently made of an elastic material with a conductive inner surface, or it may be a metallic expandable band similar to that found on a watch. For more information on wrist straps, check out this post.
  2. Ground Cords are typically made of a highly flexible wire and often are made retractable for additional freedom of movement. There are two safety features that are usually built into the cord, and the user should not attempt to bypass them. The first, and most important, is a current limiting resistor (typically 1 Megohm) which prevents hazardous current from flowing through the cord in the event the wearer inadvertently contacts line voltage. The line voltage may find another path to ground, but the cord is designed to neither increase or reduce shock hazard for voltages under 250 volts. The second safety feature built into most cords is a breakaway connection to allow the user to exit rapidly in an emergency. This is usually accomplished by using a snap connector at the wrist strap end.
    Wrist-Strap.png
  3. Foot or Heel Grounders are frequently used where the technician needs more freedom of movement than the wrist strap and cord allow. The heel grounder is often made of a conductive rubber or vinyl and is worn over a standard shoe. It usually has a strap that passes under the heel for good contact and a strap of some type that is laid inside the shoe for contact to the wearer. Heel grounders must be used with some type of conductive or dissipative floor surface to be effective and should be worn on both feet to insure continuous contact with the floor. Obviously, lifting both feet from the floor while sitting will cause protection to be lost.Don’t forget to regularly check and verify your personnel grounding items:
PersonnelGroundingTesters.png
The Personnel Grounding Checklist

 

Summary

An effective static control program doesn’t have to be expensive or complex. The main concept is to minimize generation of static and to drain it away when it does occur, thereby lessening the chance for an ESD event to happen. The ingredients for an effective ESD program are:

  1. Education: to ensure that everyone understands the problem and the proper handling of sensitive devices.
  2. Workstation Grounding: use a dissipative working surface material and dissipative flooring materials as required.
  3. Personnel Grounding: using wrist straps with ground cords and/or foot-grounding devices.
  4. Follow-up to ensure Compliance: all elements of the program should be checked frequently to determine that they are working effectively.

The ESD “threat” is not likely to go away soon, and it is very likely to become an even greater hazard, as electronic devices continue to increase in complexity and decrease in size. By implementing a static control program now, you will be prepared for the more sensitive products that will be coming.

Many companies implement an ElectroStatic Discharge (ESD) Control Program with the aim of improving their operations. Effective ESD control can be a key to improving:

  • Productivity
  • Quality
  • Customer Satisfaction

Problems arise when an organization invests in ESD protective products and/or equipment and then misuses them. Misuse of ESD protective products and/or equipment wastes invested money and can also be causing more harm than good. Today’s blog post will highlight some of the major issues we have come across and how you can avoid or fix them.

About ESD Control and ESD Protection

Remember that for a successful ESD control program, ESD protection is required throughout the manufacturing process: from goods-in to assembly all the way through to inspection. Anybody who handles electrical or electronic parts, assemblies or equipment that are susceptible to damage by electrostatic discharges should take necessary precautions.

Just like viruses or bacteria that can infect the human body, ESD can be a hidden threat unable to be detected by human eyes. Hidden viral/bacterial threats in hospitals are controlled by extensive contamination control procedures and protective measures such as sterilization. The same principles apply to ESD control: you should never handle, assemble or repair electronic assemblies without taking adequate protective measures against ESD.

Common Mistakes in ESD Control

1. Ionizers are poorly maintained or out-of-balance

If an ionizer is out of balance, instead of neutralizing charges, it will produce primarily positive or negative ions. This results in placing an electrostatic charge on items that are not grounded, potentially discharging and causing ESD damage to nearby sensitive items.

Step3 Remember to clean emitter pins and filters using appropriate tools. Create a regular maintenance schedule which will extend the lifespan of your ionizers tremendously.

Consider using ionizers with “Clean Me” and//or “Balance” alarms. These will alert you when maintenance is required.

Step2.png All ionization devices will require periodic maintenance for proper operation. Maintenance intervals for ionizers vary widely depending on the type of ionization equipment and use environment. Critical clean room use will generally require more frequent attention. It is important to set up a routine schedule for ionizer service.”

[ESD TR20.20 Handbook Ionization clause 15.8 Maintenance / Cleaning]

If you would like to learn more about how ionizers work and what type of ionizer will work best for your application, check out this post for detailed coverage.

2. ESD Garments are Ungrounded

We’ve seen it so many times: operators wearing an ESD coat (without appropriate wrist straps and/or footwear/flooring) thinking they are properly grounded. However, without proper electrical bonds to a grounding system they are not grounded!

Step3 Every ESD garment needs to be electrically bonded to the grounding system of the wearer. Otherwise it just acts as a floating conductor. There are a few options to choose from:

  • Wrist Straps
  • ESD footwear/flooring
  • Hip-to-Cuff grounding
Step2 After verifying that the garment has electrical conductivity through all panels, the garment should be electrically bonded to the grounding system of the wearer so as not to act as a floating conductor.

This can be accomplished by several means:

  1. Ground the garment to the body through a wrist strap-direct connection with an adapter.
  2. Ground the garment through conductive wrist or heel cuffs in direct contact with the skin of a grounded operator.
  3. Ground the garment through a typical separate ground cord, directly attached to an identified groundable point on the garment.
  4. Garments should be worn with the front properly snapped or buttoned to avoid exposure of possible charge on personal clothing worn under the garment.

[ESD TR20.20 Handbook Garments clause 19.4 Proper Use]

ESD clothing loses their ESD properties over time. It is therefore an important part of the ESD Control Program to incorporate periodic checks (see #3 below) of ESD garments.

If you need more information on ESD garments, we recommend having a look at this post.

3. No Compliance Verification Plan / Not Checking ESD Control Products

Companies can invest thousands of dollars in purchasing and installing ESD control products but then waste their investment by never checking their ESD items. This results in ESD equipment that is out of specification. Without the tools in place to check their ESD items, companies may have no idea if they are actually working correctly. Remember: ESD products (like any other product) are subject to wear and tear, and other errors when workstations get moved, ground cords get disconnected…etc. The list goes on.

Step3 When investing in ESD control products, make sure you also establish a Compliance Verification Plan. This ensures that:

  • ESD equipment is checked periodically
  • Necessary test equipment is available
Step2 A compliance verification plan shall be established to ensure the organization’s fulfilment of the requirements of the plan. Process monitoring (measurements) shall be conducted in accordance with a compliance verification plan that identifies the technical requirements to be verified, the measurement limits and the frequency at which those verifications shall occur. The compliance verification plan shall document the test methods used for process monitoring and measurements. If the organization uses different test methods to replace those of this standard, the organization shall be able to show that the results achieved correlate with the referenced standards. Where test methods are devised for testing items not covered in this standard, these shall be adequately documented including corresponding test limits. Compliance verification records shall be established and maintained to provide evidence of conformity to the technical requirements.
The test equipment selected shall be capable of making the measurements defined in the compliance verification plan.
”[ANSI/ESD clause 7.4 Compliance verification plan]

We provide detailed instructions on how to create a Compliance Verification Plan in this post.

4. Improperly Re-Using Shielding Bags / Using Shielding Bags with Holes or Scratches

ESD Shielding Bags are used to store and transport ESD sensitive items. When used properly, they create a Faraday Cage effect which causes charges to be conducted around the outside surface. Since similar charges repel, charges will rest on the exterior and ESD sensitive items on the inside will be ‘safe’. However, if the shielding layer of an ESD Shielding Bag is damaged, ESD sensitive items on the inside will not be protected anymore.

Step3 Re-using shielding bags is acceptable as long as there is no damage to the shielding layer. Shielding bags with holes, tears or excessive wrinkles should be discarded.

Use a system of labels to identify when the bag has gone through five (5) handling cycles. When there are five broken labels, the bag is discarded.

Step2 ESD shielding packaging is to be used particularly when transporting or storing ESD sensitive items outside an ESD Protected Area.

Transportation of ESDS items outside an ESD Protected Area (hereafter referred to as “EPA”) requires enclosure in static protective materials, although the type of material depends on the situation and destination. Inside an EPA, low charging and static dissipative materials may provide adequate protection. Outside an EPA, low charging and static discharge shielding materials are recommended. While these materials are not discussed in

the document, it is important to recognize the differences in their application. For more clarification see ANSI/ESD S541.

[ANSI/ESD Foreword]

This post provides further “dos and don’ts” when using ESD Shielding Bags.

5. Using Household Cleaners on ESD Matting

The use of standard household cleaners on ESD matting can put an ESD Control Program at risk and damage the ESD properties of items. Many household cleaners contain silicone or other insulative contaminants which create that lovely shine you get when wiping surfaces in your home. The problem is that silicone and other chemical contaminates can create an insulative layer which reduces the grounding performance of the mat.

Step3 Don’t spend all this extra money on ESD matting and then coat it with an insulative layer by using household cleaners. There are many specially formulated ESD surface and mat cleaners available on the market. Only clean your ESD working surfaces using those cleaners.
Step2 “Periodic cleaning, following the manufacturer’s recommendations, is required to maintain proper electrical function of all work surfaces. Ensure that the cleaning products used to not leave an electrically insulative residue which is common with some household cleaners that contain silicone.”

[ESD TR20.20 Handbook Worksurfaces clause 10.5 Maintenance]

Conclusion

There are many more issues we see when setting foot into EPAs and the above list is by no means complete. These are the most common issues we’ve found when assessing EPAs.

It is important to train all personnel using ESD products and/or equipment to follow proper ESD control programs, and maintenance procedures to avoid common ESD control mistakes. Basic ESD control principles should be followed for an ESD control program to be successful:

  • Ground conductors.
  • Remove, convert or neutralize insulators with ionizers.
  • Shield ESD sensitive items when stored or transported outside the EPA.

What mistakes do you commonly see when walking through an EPA? Let us know what you commonly see in the comments and your solutions for fixing them!

For more information on how to get your ESD control program off the ground and create an EPA, check this post.

We already know that in an ESD Protected Area (EPA) all surfaces, objects, people and ESD Sensitive Devices (ESDs) are kept at the same potential which is achieved by using ‘groundable’ materials that are then linked to ground. We have also learnt that the most common personnel grounding device to link people to ground are wrist straps. People who are moving around should instead wear ESD footwear.

So how do you know if your wrist straps and ESD footwear are working properly? Excellent question! And one we’ll answer in today’s post so let’s jump right in!

Purpose of Personnel Grounding Testers

Wrist straps and ESD footwear should be part of your Verification Plan. Each component in an EPA plays a vital part in the fight against electrostatic discharge (ESD). If just one component is not performing correctly, ESD sensitive devices can be damaged, potentially costing your company thousands of dollars.

Wrist straps and ESD footwear can fail and damage cannot always be detected by visual inspection. Just by looking at the items you would not know if they still provide sufficient protection. Personnel grounding testers should be used to provide feedback to verify the functionality of an operator’s wrist strap and/or footwear.

Your Personnel Grounding Checklist - Wear, Verify, Log, Handle
Your Personnel Grounding Checklist

Your Personnel Grounding Checklist:

  1. Wear your personnel grounding equipment such a wrist strap and/or footwear
  2. Verify your personnel grounding system using a wrist strap and/or footwear tester. Wrist straps and footwear, need to be tested at least daily before handling ESD sensitive devices and should be worn while checking.
  3. Log a record of each test. Records should be kept for quality control purposes.
  4. Handle ESD sensitive components ONLY if your wrist strap and/or footwear pass(es) the test.

Types of Personnel Grounding Testers

Personnel grounding testers can be purchased in two configurations:

  • Wrist strap tester
  • Wrist strap and footwear tester

As wrist straps are the most commonly used personnel grounding device to ground operators, you will find a lot of testers on the market that check wrist straps only. Combined wrist strap and footwear testers will verify your wrist straps AND footwear.

In addition to WHAT the testers verify, you will also be faced with a wide range of devices differing in HOW they test. Below you will see a (by no means complete) list of options:

  • Continuous and split footplate: You will find testers with a continuous footplate which require each foot to be tested separately one after the other. Dual-footplate or independent footwear testers feature a split footplate which allows the unit to verify both feet independently at the same time. This can be an efficient time-saver if you have a number of operators in your company who are required to check their personnel grounding devices.
  • Portable, wall-mountable and fitted testers: Portable battery-powered (predominantly) wrist strap testers are suitable for small labs or for supervisors to spot-check workers and ensure compliance. Wall-mountable units are generally supplied with a wall plate which attaches to a wall; the tester is then mounted on to the wall plate. Some personal grounding devices are accompanied by a stand (and built-in footplate) which allow for a more freely positioning of the unit within a room.
  • Relay terminal: A few testers on the market are fitted with a relay terminal (electrically operated switch) that can be integrated with electronic door locks, turnstiles, lights, buzzers, etc. This can be of advantage if companies only want to allow personnel in an EPA that have passed their wrist strap and/or footwear test.
  • Data acquisition: A growing number of personnel grounding devices allow for test activity data to be logged in a database. The units link to a computer which records operator identification, test results, resistance measurements, time and more. Paperless data can enhance operator accountability, immediately identifying problems while reducing manual logging and auditing costs.

Operation of Personnel Grounding Testers

Wrist strap testing:

If you are not using a continuous or a constant monitor, a wrist strap should be tested at least daily. This quick check can determine that no break in the path-to-ground has occurred. Wrist straps should be worn while they are tested. This provides the best way to test all three components:

  • the wrist band
  • the ground cord (including the resistor)
  • the interface (contact) with the operator’s skin
The SCS Combo Wrist Strap/ Footwear Tester
The SCS Combo Tester can be used to test wrist straps – more information

To ensure that the resistance to ground of personnel is within specification it is important to measure the entire system (i.e., wrist strap, person, and ground connection). The wrist strap system test method is described in ANIS/ESD S1.1. In general, the test method measures the resistance of the ground cord, wristband or cuff, and the interface of the band or cuff of the wearer.” [Handbook ESD TR20.20 Clause 8.2 Wrist Strap System]

The wrist strap system should be tested daily to ensure proper electrical resistance. Nominally, the upper resistance reading should be < 35 megohms or a user-defined resistance. Daily test records can provide evidence of conformity. Daily testing may be omitted if continuous monitors are used.” [ANSI/ESD S1.1 Clause A3. Frequency of System Testing]

If the wrist strap tester outputs a FAIL test result, stop working and test the wrist band and cord individually to find out which item is damaged. Replace the bad component and repeat the test. Obtain a PASS test result before beginning work. For more information on troubleshooting failed wrist straps, check this post.

Footwear testing:

If you are using a flooring / footwear system as an alternative for standing or mobile workers, ESD footwear should be tested independently at least daily while being worn. Proper testing of foot grounders involves the verification of:

  • the individual foot grounder
  • the contact strip
  • the interface between the contact strip and the operator’s perspiration layer

a) Place the foot grounders on the user’s shoes per the manufacturer’s instructions.
b) Place the left foot on the floor plate and touch the body contact area on the tester with one hand. Activate the tester per the manufacturer’s instructions.
c) Remove the left foot from the floor plate.
d) Repeat steps b and c with the right foot.
[ANSI/ESD SP9.2 Clause 6.2.2 Procedure (Integrated Tester)]

The SCS Dual Combination Tester is used to test wrist straps and footwear
The SCS Dual Combination Tester is used to test wrist straps and footwear – more information

If the footwear tester outputs a FAIL test result, stop working, and test the foot grounder and contact strip individually to find out which item is damaged. Replace the foot grounder. Obtain a PASS test result before beginning work.

Conclusion

Wrist straps and footwear need to be tested at least daily before handling any ESD sensitive devices. Personnel grounding devices need to be worn for verification using a wrist strap and/or footwear tester.

A record of each test has to be kept for quality control purposes.

Only handle ESD sensitive components if your wrist strap and/or footwear pass(es) the test.

 

We have learned in a previous post that within an ESD Protected Area (EPA) all surfaces, objects, people and ESD Sensitive Devices (ESDs) are kept at the same electrical potential. We achieve this by using only ‘groundable’ materials.

But what do you do if an item in your EPA is essential to assembly and it cannot be grounded? Don’t sweat, not all hope is lost! Let us explain a couple of options which will allow you to use the non-groundable item in question.

Conductors and Insulators

In ESD Control, we differentiate items as conductors and insulators.

Materials that easily transfer electrons are called conductors. Examples of conductors are metals, carbon and the human body’s sweat layer.

Grounding cable snap with connection to a ground.
A charged conductor can transfer electrons which allows it to be grounded

Insulators are materials that do not easily transfer electrons are non-conductors by definition. Some well-known insulators are common plastics, polystyrene foam, and glass.

Plastic cup with charged electrons
Insulators like this plastic cup will hold the charge and cannot be grounded and “conduct” the charge away.

Both, conductors and insulators, may become charged with static electricity and discharge.

Electrostatic charges can effectively be removed from conductive or dissipative conductors by grounding them. A non-conductive insulator will hold the electron charge and cannot be grounded and “conduct” the charge away.

Conductors and Insulators in an EPA

The first two fundamental principles of ESD Control are:

  1. Ground all conductors (including people).
  2. Remove all insulators.

To ground all conductors per the first ESD Control principal, all surfaces, products and people are electrically bonded to ground. Bonding means linking or connecting, usually through a resistance of between 1 and 10 megohms.

Wrist straps and worksurface mats are some of the most common devices used to remove static charges:

  • Wrist straps drain charges from operators and a properly grounded mat will provide path-to-ground for exposed ESD susceptible devices.
  • Movable items (such as containers and tools) are bonded by standing on a bonded surface or being held by a bonded person.

If the static charge in question is on something that cannot be grounded, i.e. an insulator, then #2 of our ESD Control principles will kick in and insulators must be removed. Per the ESD Standard ANSI/ESD S20.20, “All nonessential insulators such as coffee cups, food wrappers and personal items shall be removed from the EPA.” [ANSI/ESD S20.20 clause 8.3.1 Insulators]

The ESD Standard differentiates between these two options:

  1. If the field measured on the insulator is greater than 2000 volts/inch, keep it at a minimum distance of 12 inches from the ESDs or
  2. If the field measured on the insulator is greater than 125 volts/inch, keep it at a minimum distance of 1 inch from the ESDs.
Moving an insulated keyboard away from ESD sensitive workspace
Aim to keep insulators away from ESDs

“Process-Essential” Insulators

Well, nothing in life is black and white. It would be easy if we were always able to follow the above ESD Control ‘rules’ but there are situations where said insulator is an item used at the workstation, e.g. hand tools. They are “process-essential” insulators – you cannot remove them from the EPA or the job won’t get done.

How do you ‘remove’ these vital insulators without actually ‘removing’ them from your EPA?

Here are four ways to reduce the ESD risk of these insulators:

  1. Keep all insulators a minimum of 1 inch or 12 inches from ESDs at all times per recommendation of the ESD Standard.
    This reduces the chance of insulators coming in contact with ESDs during workstation processes and assembly.
  2. Replace regular insulative items with an ESD protective version.
    There are numerous tools and accessories available that are ESD safe – from document handling to cups & dispensers, soldering tools, brushes and waste bins. They are either conductive or dissipative and replace the standard insulative varieties that are generally used at a workbench.
  3. Periodically apply Topical Antistat on non-ESD surfaces.
    After Topical Antistat has been applied and the surface dries, an antistatic and protective static dissipative coating is left behind. The static dissipative coating will allow charges to drain off when grounded. The antistatic properties will reduce triboelectric voltage to under 200 volts. It therefore gives non-ESD surfaces electrical properties until the hard coat is worn away.
  4. Neutralization with Ionization
    If these three options are not feasible for your application, the insulator is termed “process-essential” and therefore neutralization using an ionizer becomes a necessary part of your ESD control program. This allows for control of charged particles that can cause ESD events which we will cover next.

Neutralization

Most ESD workstations will have some insulators or isolated conductors that cannot be removed or replaced. These should be addressed with ionization.

Examples of some common process essential insulators are a PC board substrate, insulative test fixtures and product plastic housings.

Electronic enclosures are process-essential insulators (shown on ESD workstation)
Electronic enclosures are process-essential insulators

An example of isolated conductors are conductive traces or components loaded on a PC board that is not in contact with the ESD worksurface.

An ionizer creates great numbers of positively and negatively charged ions. Fans help the ions flow over the work area. Ionization can neutralize static charges on an insulator in a matter of seconds, thereby reducing their potential to cause ESD damage.

The charged ions created by an ionizer will:

  • neutralize charges on process required insulators,
  • neutralize charges on non- essential insulators,
  • neutralize isolated conductors and
  • minimize triboelectric charging.
SCS Benchtop ionizer on a workstation removing charges from isolated conductors on PCB Board
Insulators and isolated conductors are common in ESDs – Ionizers can help

For more information on ionizers and how to choose the right type of ionizer for your application, read this post.

Summary

The best way to keep electrostatic sensitive devices (ESDs) from damage is to ground all conductive objects and remove insulators. This is not always possible because some insulators are “process-essential” and are necessary to build or assemble the ESDs.

Insulators, by definition, are non-conductors and therefore cannot be grounded, but they can be controlled to minimize potential ESD damage.

Insulators can be controlled by doing the following within an EPA:

  • Keep insulators a minimum distance from ESDS at all times (1 or 12 inch minimum distance depending on field voltage measurements of the insulator per ESD Standard recommendation)
  • Replace regular insulative items with ESD protective versions
  • Periodically apply a coat of Topical Antistat
  • Neutralize charges for “process-essential” insulators with ionization

With these steps added to your ESD control process, all surfaces, objects, people and ESD Sensitive Devices (ESDs) are kept at the same electrical potential in an ESD Protected Area (EPA) to reduce the risk of ESD events and ESD damage.

Do your employees handle ESD-sensitive high-end components that are expensive to replace if they failed? If so, reducing the possibility of ESD damage is an important part of an ESD control program. Today’s blog post will look at one option of protecting your critical applications: Dual-Wire Wrist Straps.

Introduction

In an ESD Protected Area (EPA), all surfaces, objects, people and ESD sensitive devices (ESDs) are kept at the same electric potential. This is achieved by using only ‘groundable’ materials that are then linked to ground.

This is in line with the requirements of ANSI/ESD S20.20: “The Organization shall prepare an ESD Control Program Plan that addresses each of the requirements of the Program. Those requirements include:
– Training
– Product Qualification
– Compliance Verification
– Grounding / Equipotential Bonding Systems
– Personnel Grounding
– ESD Protected Area (EPA) Requirements
– Packaging Systems
– Marking

[ANSI/ESD S20.20 clause 7.1 ESD Control Program Plan]

Wrist Straps

Wrist straps are the most common personnel grounding device and are used to link people to ground. They are required if the operator is sitting.

A wrist strap is made up of two components:

  • A wrist band that is worn comfortably around your wrist and
  • A coiled cord that connects the band to a Common Grounding Point.

wristbandComponents of a Wrist Strap 

Dual-Wire Wrist Straps

Dual-Wire Wrist Straps have two conductors (compared to single-wire monitors which have only one conductor inside the insulation of the coiled cord). They offer a reduced risk of damaging ESD sensitive devices because if one conductor is severed or damaged, the operator still has a reliable path-to-ground with the second conductor. For that reason, they dual-wire wrist straps are generally used in critical applications.

Advantages of using Dual-Wire Wrist Straps:

  • Elimination of intermittent failures
  • Extension of wrist strap lifespan
  • Compatible with high performance continuous monitors

 2231
The MagSnap 360™ Dual-Wire Wrist Strap and Coil Cord –
more information

Dual-Wire Continuous Monitors

For maximum benefit, dual-wire wrist straps should be used together with dual-wire continuous monitors. Instead of connecting a coil cord directly to a common grounding point, the operator connects to a continuous monitor. The operator is grounded through the continuous monitor and the operator-to-ground connection is monitored.

The monitors provide operators with instant feedback on the status and functionality of their wrist strap and/or workstation. Continuous monitors detect split-second failures when the wrist strap is still in the “intermittent” stage. This is prior to a permanent “open” which could result in damage to ESD sensitive components. The “intermittent” stage is characterized by sporadic failures as the cord is not completely severed. Once the cord is fully split, the “open” stage is reached.

WS-Aware-UseThe WS Aware Dual-Wire Workstation Monitor – more information


Since people are one of the greatest sources of static electricity and ESD, proper grounding is paramount. One of the most common ways to ground people is with a wrist strap. Ensuring that wrist straps are functional and are connected to people and ground is a continuous task.” “While effective at the time of testing, wrist strap checker use is periodic. The failure of a wrist strap between checks may expose products to damage from electrostatic charge. If the wrist strap system is checked at the beginning of a shift and subsequently fails, then an entire shift’s work could be suspect.” “Wrist strap checkers are usually placed in a central location for all to use.  Wrist straps are stressed and flexed to their limits at a workstation.  While a wrist strap is being checked, it is not stressed, as it would be under working conditions.  Opens in the wire at the coiled cord’s strain relief are sometimes only detected under stress.“ [ESD TR 12-01 Technical Report Survey of Constant (Continuous) Monitors for Wrist Straps]

Resistance (or dual-wire) constant monitors are “… used with a two wire (dual) wrist strap. When a person is wearing a wrist strap, the monitor observes the resistance of the loop, consisting of a wire, a person, a wristband, and a second wire.  If any part of the loop should open (become disconnected or have out of limit resistance), the circuit will go into the alarm state.” “While the continuity of the loop is monitored, the connection of the wrist strap to ground is not monitored.” “There are two types of signals used by resistance based constant monitors; steady state DC and pulsed DC.  Pulsed DC signals were developed because of concerns about skin irritation.  However, pulse DC units introduce periods of off time (seconds) when the system is not being monitored.“ [ESD TR 12-01 Technical Report Survey of Constant (Continuous) Monitors for Wrist Straps]

Conclusion

Dual Polarity Technology provides true continuous monitoring of wrist strap functionality and operator safety according to accepted industry standards. Dual-wire systems are used to create redundancy. In critical applications redundancy is built-in to have a backup if the primary source fails. With dual-wire wrist straps the redundancy is there as a protection rather than an alternative. If you are monitoring your dual-wire wrist strap and one wire fails, then the unit will alarm. You will still be grounded by the other wire, so there will be a significantly reduced risk of damaging ESD sensitive components if you happen to be handling them when the wrist strap fails. The wrist strap still needs to be replaced immediately.

And there you have it: dual-wire wrist straps together with dual-wire continuous monitors offer better protection than intermittent monitoring or testing if you have a critical application.

Check-out the SCS Wrist Strap Selection Guide and Workstation Monitor Selection Guide to find the correct products for your application.

There is a very common misconception that if a person is wearing a wrist strap, an ESD garment (ESD smock, ESD shirt, ESD coat etc.) is unnecessary. Operators falsely believe that any charge on a person and their clothes will find its way to ground via the wrist strap.
Today’s blog post will explain the importance of ESD smocks and why they should be considered for your ESD Protected Area (EPA).

Purpose of ESD smocks
The main reason people wear ESD smocks is to shield their insulative clothing and minimize the electric fields generated from their clothing. As we learned previously, all process essential insulators should be kept at a minimum distance of 12 inches from ESD susceptible items. Clothing fabric, particularly when made from synthetic fibres, is a significant charge generator. Non-ESD clothing fabric is an isolated charged insulator which cannot be grounded and the resulting charges can threaten ESD control.
An insulator (like clothing) will not let charges flow and holds the charge until either neutralized naturally over time (hours or days) or with an air ionizer (artificially under a few seconds). Until the charges are neutralized, your clothing may have several thousand volts that could suddenly discharge and damage nearby static-sensitive items.
The ESD Standard does not require ESD smocks, however they are a very practical solution for minimizing ESD events from a person’s clothing. ESD smocks can be an important step to demonstrating commitment to an ESD control program.

Example of an ESD Smock
Example of an ESD Smock

Garments are intended to attenuate electrostatic fields that may be present on personnel clothing. The need for ESD protective garments is generally determined based on the sensitivity of the ESD items being handled where ESD control is a requirement.
While a person may be grounded using a wrist strap or other grounding methods, that does not mean that insulative clothing fabrics can dissipate a charge to that person’s skin and then to ground. Personnel clothing usually is electrically separate or isolated from the body.” [ESD TR20.20 Clause 5.3.13 Garments]

ESD smock properties
Most smocks are constructed of a dissipative material which incorporates texturized polyester and carbon nylon fibres. The conductive nylon fibres are woven in a chain-link design throughout the material, providing continuous and consistent charge dissipation.

ESD Smocks are an ESD protective product that should possess the following ESD control characteristics:

  • Antistatic low-charging so they minimize the generation of electrostatic charges;
  • Dissipative so when grounded they will remove charges to ground;
  • Shielding creating a “Faraday Cage” effect so they will restrict charges generated on the user’s clothing to the inside of the ESD Smock and
  • Groundable so the user can easily and reliably connect them to ground.

The majority of ESD smocks on the market are single-wire ESD smocks meaning they provide one electrical connection to ground.
The all-new SCS Dual-Wire Static Control Smocks are designed for use with dual-wire grounding systems. The smock’s dual-wire circuit loop closes when its two conductive cuffs are bridged by the skin on the wearer’s wrists.

  • One conductive cuff is electrically bonded to the dissipative garment and one snap stud at the hip.
  • The second conductive cuff uses an isolated conductive path to bond to a second snap stud at the hip.

When used in conjunction with a dual-wire continuous monitor, SCS Dual-Wire Static Control Smocks provide assurance of a proper dissipative path from operator to ground at all times.
For more information on the differences of single-wire and dual-wire systems, please review this post.

Installation and grounding of ESD smocks
Follow the directions below for proper installation and grounding of the ESD smock.

  • Put on the smock, and close the garment by fastening all of the snaps on the front. Verify that no clothing is exposed outside of the smock.
    Installation of Smocks - Part 1
  • Fit the conductive knitted cuffs over the wrists. Ensure that the cuffs make contact with the skin. They should never be worn over the shirt sleeves.
    Installation of Smocks - Part 2
  • Ground the ESD smock. A popular way to ground an ESD smock is with a coiled cord either attached to a snap on the waist area of the smock or via a wrist strap snapped to the inside cuff of an ESD smock. If none of these methods are suitable, the smock should be grounded via the person’s wrist removing charges via ESD footwear to ESD protected flooring.
    Installation of Smocks - Part 3

 

Using Hip-to-Cuff Grounding with the SCS Dual-Wire Static Control Smock and SCS Iron Man® Plus Workstation Monitor
Using Hip-to-Cuff Grounding with the SCS Dual-Wire Static Control Smock and SCS Iron Man® Plus Workstation Monitor

After verifying that the garment has electrical conductivity through all panels, the garment should be electrically bonded to the grounding system of the wearer so as not to act as a floating conductor. This can be accomplished by several means:

  1. Ground the garment to the body through a wrist strap-direct connection with an adapter
  2. Ground the garment through a conductive wrist cuff in direct contact with the skin of a grounded operator
  3. Ground the garment through a typical separate ground cord, directly attached to an identified groundable point on the garment
  4. Garments should be worn with the front properly snapped or buttoned to avoid exposure of possible charges on personal clothing worn under the garment.

[ESD TR20.20 Clause 5.3.13.2.6 Proper Use]

ESD Garments are a conductor and therefore should be grounded. If not grounded, the ESD smock can be a potentially threatening isolated charged conductor. If an operator is wearing a smock but is not electrically connecting the smock to either their body’s skin or ground, then charges on the smock may have nowhere to go or discharge to.

Testing of ESD smocks
Panel-to-panel conductivity is essential to ensure portions of the smock are not left as isolated charged conductors. A Resistance Test Kit can quickly measure resistance of the fabric and ensure panel-to-panel conductivity by placing five pound electrodes on different fabric panels.
To ensure that the fabric is low tribocharging, a Static Field Meter can be used to measure charges generated by causing contact and separation with other materials. In addition, the Static Field Meter can demonstrate shielding by measuring a charged object and then covering the charged item with the ESD smock. Being shielded, the measured charge should be greatly reduced.

Static control garments that electrically bond to the test subject and provide a path to ground for the test subject (Category 3) shall be evaluated by all three methods:

  • the resistance point-to-point test method (Fig Sa, 5b and 5c);
  • the resistance point to groundable point test method (Figures 4, 6a, 6b and 7); and
  • the system test to determine the resistance from the person, through the garment

groundable point of the garment to the groundable point, including the ground cord (Figures 8a and 8b).” [ANSI/ESD STM2.1 Clause 1.3.2]

Using the SCS 701 Analog Surface Resistance Megohmmeter to test panel-to-panel conductivity
Using the SCS 701 Analog Surface Resistance Megohmmeter to test panel-to-panel conductivity

Cleaning of ESD smocks
Smocks must be laundered periodically for proper operation. The proper method to clean a smock is to:

  • Wash the garment by hand or with a standard household washing machine in cold or warm water.
  • Only use non-ionic liquid softeners and detergents when laundering. Do not bleach your ESD smocks!
  • Tumble dry with low heat or hang dry.

Do not use:

  • Hot water
  • Dry detergent
  • Bleach
  • Fabric softener
  • Industrial laundry machines

Please also note that smocks should not be altered in any way. The smocks effectiveness is in fully covering the human body and street clothes – especially at the wrists and front of the body. Altering the smock in any way will nullify its effectiveness.
The typical useful and effective life of an ESD smock under normal wearing and recommended washing conditions is a minimum of 75 washings. Under the same conditions, SCS smocks will maintain their usefulness and effectiveness for a minimum of 100 washings

Wrist straps are generally straight forward with what they do and how they work, but when it comes to foot grounders there is still a lot of confusion out there – something we want to address in today’s post. So, let’s get started.

Introduction
An Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) flooring / footwear system is an alternative for grounding standing or mobile workers. Sitting personnel are usually grounded via a wrist strap, but this method is not feasible for operators moving around in an ESD Protected Area (EPA).
ESD foot grounders are designed to reliably contact grounded ESD flooring and provide a continuous path-to-ground by removing electrostatic charges from personnel. ESD foot grounders are easy to install and can be used on standard shoes by placing the grounding tab in the shoe under the foot.
Per ANSI/ESD S20.20 Clause 8.2 Personnel Grounding: “For standing operations, personnel shall be grounded via a wrist strap or by a footwear/flooring system meeting the requirements of”:

  • the total resistance of the Footwear / Flooring system shall be less than 1.0 × 109 ohms
  • the maximum body voltage generation shall be less than 100 V.

Structure of Foot Grounders
Foot grounders discharge static from a person to ground by connecting the person to a grounded walking surface. A conductive ribbon placed inside the wearer’s shoe or sock makes electrical contact with the skin through perspiration. The ribbon is joined to a resistor which limits electrical current should accidental exposure to electricity occur. The other end of the resistor is joined to a conductive sole. The sole contacts a grounded ESD floor mat or ESD flooring system.

Structure of a Foot Grounder
Structure of a Foot Grounder

Foot grounders must be worn on both feet to maintain the integrity of the body-to-ground connection.
Wearing a foot grounder on each foot ensures contact with ground via the ESD floor even when one foot is lifted off the floor. This will more reliably remove static charges generated by human movement and more reliably protect ESD sensitive devices (ESDS).

Installation of Foot Grounders
1. Standard Style Foot Grounders
Standard D-ring heel grounders are equipped with an elastic D-ring fastening system which provides adjustable cinching of an ankle strap and allows “flex” during walking. They are designed for use on most types of shoes and boots.

  • Place the grounding tab in the shoe so that it will lay under the heel. Once heel is repositioned inside tied shoe, tuck excess ribbon material into side of shoe.
  • Place heel cup onto the shoe. For models with a non-marking interior, install so that the lined cup surface is making contact with the shoe.
  • Pull the strap through the D-ring and cinch down for snug, comfortable fit.
  • Test each heel grounder to confirm proper installation.
Installation of Standard Style Foot Grounders – more information
Installation of Standard Style Foot Grounders – more information

2. Cup Style Foot Grounders
Cup Style Foot Grounders are heel grounders designed for use on standard shoes and can be easily adjusted to fit the individual wearer.

  • Place the foot grounder on the shoe so that the lining is contacting the shoe.
  • Insert the grounding tab inside of the shoe and under the foot. Make sure that solid contact is made between the sock and body. Cut contact strip to desired length.
  • Fasten hook and loop straps together, securing the foot grounder firmly on shoe.
  • Test each foot grounder to confirm proper installation.
Installation of Cup Style Foot Grounders – more information
Installation of Cup Style Foot Grounders – more information

3. D-Ring Toe Grounders
Toe Grounders with the elastic D-ring fastening system are designed for use with a variety of men’s and women’s shoes including high heels, cowboy boots, flat shoes, loafers and safety shoes.

  • Insert the grounding tab inside of the shoe and under the foot. Make sure that solid contact is made between the sock and body. Cut grounding tab to desired length.
  • Place rubber toe material under toe area of shoe sole. Pull hook-and-loop strap over top of shoe and cinch down until snug. Install so that the lined surface is contacting the shoe.
  • Pull elastic strap around the back of the heel. Adjust D-ring plastic loop for a comfortable fit.
  • Test each toe grounder to confirm proper installation
Installation of D-Ring Toe Grounders – more information
Installation of D-Ring Toe Grounders – more information

4. Disposable Foot Grounders
Disposable Foot Grounders are designed for applications where the use of permanent foot grounders are not economical or practical. They are constructed so that it may be used once and then discarded.

  • Remove shoe. Wipe any excess dirt from underside of heel. Remove release paper from heel grounder.
  • Apply the adhesive end of the heel grounder to the underside of heel of the shoe. Wrap the tape snugly around the outside of the shoe.
  • Insert the non-adhesive end of the heel grounder inside the shoe so that the black dot is over the middle of the heel area facing upwards.
  • Put the shoe on.
  • Test each foot grounder to confirm proper installation.

NOTE: This product is not recommended for use on equipment with operating voltage.

Installation of Disposable Foot Grounders – more information
Installation of Disposable Foot Grounders – more information

Advantages of ESD Foot Grounders
ESD foot grounders are often preferred over ESD shoes for several reasons:

  • One size fits many foot sizes, reducing stock holdings and simplifying operations.
  • ESD foot grounders usually pass the mandatory resistance test as soon as worn, whereas some ESD shoes require a ‘warm-up period’ in order for the operator’s Resistance to Ground (RG) to drop below 35 megohms.
  • The operator is allowed to wear their own footwear, increasing their comfort in the workplace and not limiting footwear selection to available ESD shoe styles.
  • Less initial investment cost in comparison to ESD shoes if outfitting all operators in an EPA.

Disadvantages of ESD Foot Grounders
ESD foot grounders have a useful life that is dependent on the floor and it’s surface roughness, which can make them seem like they have shorter useful life in comparison to ESD shoes. However, there are a few simple tricks to avoid a quick ‘burn-out’:

  • We recommend ESD foot grounders only to be used indoors where floors are usually smoother (and where the ESD foot grounder is less likely to become wet, thereby short circuiting the resistor). The rougher the floor the greater the wear.
  • The manner in which the wearer walks can also affect the life span of the grounder.

In summary, with reasonable care and if used only indoors, ESD heel and toe grounders can last several weeks.

Testing of Foot Grounders
Proper testing of your foot grounders involve testing:

  • the individual foot grounder
  • the contact strip
  • the interface between the contact strip
  • the wearer’s perspiration layer

There are personnel grounding testers on the market designed to properly test foot grounders. For more information, check out our selection chart.
If you obtain a fail reading from the tester you should stop working and test the foot ground and contact strip individually to find out which item has failed. Replace the foot grounder or replace the bad component if possible. Retest the system before beginning work.

Ensure your Foot Grounders are working before handling ESDs
Ensure your Foot Grounders are working before handling ESDs

Cleaning of Foot Grounders
Foot grounders are used to ground static charges, however dirt provides an insulative layer adversely effecting reliability. For proper operation, the foot grounder and its conductive strip must be kept clean.
The rubber portion of the foot grounder should be cleaned using an ESD cleaner. Ensure that your ESD cleaner is silicone free. This is critical as silicone is an insulator. An alternative would be to clean using isopropyl alcohol. ESD cleaners should not be used to clean the nylon polyester grounding tab. Foot Grounders can be safely hand or machine washed on gentle cycle. Mild detergents, such as Woolite® or a liquid dish washing product used with warm water are recommended for cleaning, however care must be taken to ensure that these detergents are silicone free.

Conclusion

  1. It is recommended that ESD foot grounders are worn on both feet to ensure that a continuous path to ground is maintained at all times (even when lifting one foot).
  2. Contact strips should be tucked inside the shoe with as much contact area as possible to the bottom of the stockinged foot. ESD foot grounders rely upon the perspiration layer inside of the shoe to make contact through the stocking.
  3. Foot grounders must be used with an ESD protected floor system (such as properly grounded ESD floor finish, carpet tiles or floor mats) to provide a continuous electrical path from the user directly to the ESD ground.
  4. A current limiting of one or two megohm resistor in series with the contact strip is recommended but not required.
  5. ESD foot grounders should be tested independently at least daily while being worn to periodically test for proper grounding.

As we have learnt in our last blog post, wrist straps are the most common personnel grounding device to ground operators. In today’s blog post, we will talk about the different types of wrist straps and also explain how continuous monitors can support you in your fight against ESD.

What is a Wrist Strap?
A wrist strap is arguably the best way to provide a safe ground connection for the operator to dissipate accumulated static charges with the purpose to prevent dangerous ESD exposure to sensitive ESD components.
Wrist straps must be tested to ensure that they are installed and working properly.
On-demand or “touch” testers have become the most common testing method.

  • On-demand testers complete a circuit when the wrist strap wearer touches a contact plate.
  • On-demand testers require a dedicated action by the wearer of the wrist strap to make the test.
  • Knowing that the wrist strap has failed after the fact may possibly have exposed a highly sensitive or valuable assembly to risk.

Continuous monitors eliminate the possibility of a component being exposed to ESD during the period that the wrist strap was not working properly.

Types of Wrist Straps
A wrist strap in general is a conductive wristband which provides an electrical connection to skin of an operator and, in turn, by itself is connected to a known ground point at a workbench or a tool. While a wrist strap does not prevent generation of charges, its purpose is to dissipate these charges to ground as quickly as possible.

  • A single-wire wrist strap is comprised of one conductive surface contacting the wrist of an operator and providing one electrical connection to ground.
  • A dual-wire wrist strap has two electrically-separate parts and two separate electrical connections to ground combined in one cord.

For more information on wrist straps, we recommend checking out our last blog post here.

Example of a Wrist Strap
Example of a Wrist Strap

Both types of wrist straps – when in good condition and properly worn – provide equally good connection of operator to ground.

Wrist Strap Monitors
Monitoring of single-wire and dual-wire wrist straps is fundamentally different:

  • Single-wire wrist strap monitors do not have a return signal path; the only physical parameter they can rely on is parasitic capacitance of the operator’s body to ground.
  • Dual-wire wrist strap monitors measure the resistance of the operator’s wrist between the two halves of the wrist strap.

Single-Wire Wrist Strap Monitoring
1. AC Capacitance Monitors
The first constant monitors developed made use of the fact that a person can be thought of as one plate of a capacitor with the other plate being ground. The ground and the person are both conductors and they are separated (sometimes) by an insulator (shoes, mats, carpet, etc.) thus forming a capacitor. The combined resistance of the wrist strap and person forms a resistor so that the total circuit is a simple RC circuit. A tiny AC current applied to this circuit will cause a displacement current in the capacitance to flow to ground providing a simple way to make sure the person (capacitor), resistor (wrist strap) and coil cord are all hooked up. Any break in this circuit results in a higher impedance that can be used to trigger an alarm.
This technology is still around today and is purchased by some because of its low cost. A big plus of this technology is the ability to use any standard single-wire wrist strap.

770075-UseExample of a single-wire capacitance monitor – more information

2. Wave Distortion Monitors
What the wave form distortion monitor looks at is not the impedance level, but at the waveform generated by the circuit. Current will lead voltage at various points due to the combinations of resistance and capacitive reactance. (There is a negligible amount of inductive reactance from the coil cord.) By monitoring these “distortions” or phase shifts the monitor will determine if the circuit is complete i.e. the wearer is in the circuit and the total equivalent DC resistance is within specifications given a range of installations. Essentially, the unit will monitor the operator by sending a “signature” signal down the coil cord to the operator’s wrist. The operator acts as a load and will reflect that signal back to the monitor with a different signature. The monitor will then compare the reflected signature to its factory pre-set signatures. If the signal is within the “good” range, the operator passes and the monitor will continue its work. If the signature is “not” good, the monitor will go into an alarm-state to warn the operator to stop working and fix the problem.

Dual-Wire Wrist Strap Monitoring
A number of issues can come up when using single-wire monitors, such as:

  • They do not provide a reliable way to know if the total resistance of the circuit is too low, i.e., if the current limiting safety resistor is shorted.
  • Simple AC capacitance monitors can be tricked into thinking the person is wearing the wrist strap when they are not. For example, laying a wrist strap and cord on a grounded mat will increase the shunt capacitance, which allows the monitor to show a good circuit even with the person out of the circuit. Forming the cord into a tight bundle or stretching it can also provide false readings.
  • Since the capacitance and therefore the impedance of the circuit will also vary with such things as the person’s size, clothing, shoe soles, conductance of the floor, chair, table mat, the person’s positions (standing or sitting), etc., these monitors often have to be “tuned” to a specific installation and operator.

Dual-wire resistance monitors were developed to overcome some of the problems with the AC capacitance types. By providing a second path to ground (without relying on the capacitor above), we can apply a tiny DC current to measure the DC resistance of the circuit. The monitor will alarm if that resistance goes too high (open circuit) or too low (the safety resistor is shorted).

  • If you are monitoring your dual-wire wrist strap and one wire fails, then the unit will alarm.
  • You will still be grounded by the other wire, so there will be a significantly reduced risk of damaging ESD sensitive components if you happen to be handling them when the wrist strap fails.
  • The wrist strap would still need to be replaced immediately if a wrist strap fails.

724useExample of a dual-wire pulsed monitor – more information

There have been some reports that a constant DC voltage applied to the wristband causes skin irritations. This has been addressed in some models by pulsing the test current and in others by lowering the test voltage.

Conclusion
While both single-wire and dual-wire wrist strap monitors help to dissipate accumulated charges on an operator, only dual-wire wrist strap solutions provide assurance of a proper dissipative path from operator to ground. Dual polarity technology provides true continuous monitoring of wrist strap functionality and operator safety according to accepted industry standards.

  • Dual-wire continuous wrist strap monitors ensure that the wrist strap is worn properly at all times. These units monitor proper connection of the operator to ground and alarm should this connection fail.
  • In critical applications, dual-wire systems have redundancy built-in to have a backup if the primary option fails. Two-wire monitors require two wires to create redundancy – this means that the wearer must wear a dual-wire two-conductor wrist strap / coil cord which are more expensive than standard single-wire wrist straps.
  • A two-wire monitor provides the same reliability as a touch tester and a simple, easy to understand measurement while eliminating the shortcomings of the AC capacitance monitors

For applications where sensitive components are being handled, the ability to guarantee that the wrist strap provides proper dissipation of charges on the operator is critical.

The share of dual-wire wrist straps in sensitive component handling is growing rapidly. Click here to view our range of dual-wire monitors.