Not Just a Tiny Shock: The Dangers of Static Electricity

by Chris Martin on July 10, 2014

Everyone knows that untamed electricity can cause severe damage. Frayed wiring can often ignite and cause a fire in a building. A broken electricity wire that touches water can injure (or kill) anyone who might be nearby. And lightning strikes have the potential to cause major damage or fatalities.

And then there’s static electricity, which doesn’t require a traditional “source” of electricity to affect people and objects both indoors and out. People often dismiss the impact of static electricity as just an annoying little shock. But because electricity is involved, the ramifications can be more severe than you might think.

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Think of static electricity as a miniature lightning strike.

Anatomy of Static Electricity

There are three different components which are present during a static electricity hazard: the generation of an electrostatic charge, the accumulation of that charge, and the electrostatic discharge. As you may know, an electrostatic charge can often be generated from daily activities such as walking, especially in dry conditions on certain surfaces while wearing specific types of footwear. Since the body acts as a capacitor, the charge tends to accumulate faster than it can decay or dissipate. Finally, this electrical charge can be discharged when the person touches a metal or grounded object; the shock can be as little as 3,000 volts or as high as 20,000 volts.

Possible Outcomes of Static Electricity Shock

Of course, this discharge simply results in a minor “shock” the vast majority of the time. However, the effects can be more serious under certain conditions. For instance, the shock can sometimes be sudden or painful enough to cause a physical reaction. This can cause problems like losing one’s balance or spilling hot coffee on skin. In rare cases, this can affect cardiac pacemakers.

Static electricity also has the potential to cause damage to objects and structures. An electrostatic discharge under the right conditions can ignite a small fire, which can build into a larger blaze if left alone. But what is more common is the impact it can have on sensitive electronic devices. If a charge strikes one of these devices – from keyboards and mice to motherboards, printers, and network switches – it could possibly render them damaged beyond repair.

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Don’t mess with electricity. You’ll probably lose.

How to Address Static Electricity Hazards

That’s why it’s essential not to ignore the potential problems associated with static electricity. One frequently chosen option is for computer users to wear an ESD wrist strap, which is connected to a properly-grounded surface or object so that an electrostatic discharge does not travel to the sensitive electronic components. In terms of the overall workplace environment, reducing the air conditioner output and/or installing humidity control can address overly-dry air. Utilizing less conductive surfaces such as wood or plastic can also decrease the risk of damage caused by electrostatic discharge. Finally, it’s wise to place anti-static floor mats wherever delicate electronics are placed or stored.

Solution: Anti-Static Floor Protection

Ultimate Mats offers a wide range of anti-static floor mats that can reduce the chances of static electricity hazards. Products such as the Tri Grip and Enviro Plus interior mats and the entire line of WaterHog entry mats are made to resist static electricity. Others like the ColorStar and ColorStar Crunch interior mats as well as the Classic Impressions logo mat are made with 100% static-free fibers to further minimize the risk of electrostatic shocks.

Let an Ultimate Mats static-resistant floor mat be an integral part of your overall strategy to combat the effects of static electricity. Check out the Ultimate Mats Web site today or call (866) 374-3756 to find out more about their full line of anti-static matting products.

Written by Chris Martin

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