Against a dark blue background, the podcast title 'Static Bursts' appears in white at the top of the image, with an orange and white stopwatch icon between the two words. A lightning spark appears at the right hand side of the image with a cascade of sparks radiating out across the rest of the image. The podcast title Episode 10: ESD Flooring and Electrical Safety are overlaid in white and a dark blue semi-opaque square covering the middle of the image. The company name and logo Staticworx appears in orange (first half) and white (second half) at the bottom.

Static Bursts (Ep #10): ESD Floors and Electrical Safety

In this episode, Dave discusses ESD floors and electrical safety. At some point when discussing grounded conductive floors, the question of safety always arises, along with whether or not grounding a conductive floor puts people in harm’s way. Referring to an actual case study, Dave talks about a situation in which a floor installed for the FAA was too conductive to meet the FAA safety standards. The client had been told that drying the pressure-sensitive adhesive would solve the problem, making the entire floor less conductive. Dave talks about why this is not true, and why it’s extremely important to adhere to electrical standards as they are written.

The Gist: ESD Floors and Electrial Safety

Failure to follow the electrical safety standards set by your industry can put people standing on an overly conductive* grounded floor at unnecessary risk of electrical shock.

* Overly conductive means with an electrical resistance reading below 2.5 x 10E4.

Real world example: A conductive floor installed in a flight tower was too conductive to pass resistance tests set by FAA standard FAA 019f. The FAA standard requires floors to measure 10E6 to 10E9. The FAA engineer was getting a measured reading of 10E4.

  • The manufacturer advised the FAA engineer to lift the tiles, let the adhesive dry out.
  • When he put the tiles back down, the engineer was told he would get a lower resistance to ground. In other words, the adhesive was too conductive, not the tile.
  • This, in fact, did raise the electrical resistance reading. But it was a fake reading.

Drying the adhesive reduced moisture content, resulting in a lower system resistance. The floor was still too conductive. In other words, the acceptable reading was acceptable only on paper.

Electricity flows to the path of least resistance. If the adhesive has a higher resistance than the floor, whatever is sitting on top of the floor will become the new ground – potentially putting the safety of people walking on the floor at risk.

“…electricity flows to the path of least resistance. If the adhesive underneath it, even though it’s grounded, has a higher resistance [than the floor] …then the chassis [sitting on top of the grounded floor]… becomes the new ground. And now our floor goes from measuring over 10E6, to measuring close to zero, just by something interrupting the previous method of grounding it.”

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Dave: Welcome to Static Talks. I’m your host, Dave Long, founder and president of StaticWorx. We make static control flooring. In our podcasts we’ll discuss the threat static electricity poses to your business and how to address these risks.

Rick, when we were working with that ohm meter today reminded me of something that’s electrical safety. It’s a subject that no one likes to touch. And one of the reasons they don’t like to talk about it is because when you start talking about floors that have conductivity and that are grounded, at some point there is a question about whether or not a floor is too conductive and whether that would put a person in harm’s way. So I’m going to tell you a quick story. And I’ll tell you how we went about explaining it to the client.

We were called about a year and a half ago by an engineer from the FAA. They had just put in static control carpet in a flight tower and he tested it and it was far more conductive than their grounding standard allows for. And he said he called either the installer or the manufacturer. And he was told, all he needed to do was lift the tiles up and let the pressure sensitive adhesive dry more, put the tiles back down, and he would get a lower resistance to ground.

And for those of you who don’t know what resistance to ground is, what that is, it’s we take an ohm meter, we connect a probe to it, we put the probe on top of the floor, we connect the second lead on the meter to ground and we measure the electrical resistance from the carpet through the carpet to the adhesive to ground. So essentially this advice that was given to him was that the adhesive was too conductive. Not the carpet, but the adhesive, even though the reading of the carpet and the adhesive together was highly, highly conductive. So he did what he was told. He let it dry. And when he made that measurement, it did, in fact, raise the electrical resistance. And he was told that’s all you need to do. The reason I’m bringing this up is that’s basically a fake reading that is telling you something that defies logic, that prevents you from actually knowing whether or not you have a safe condition in your building. And I’ll explain why.

So, the FAA’s acceptable range for flooring is 10E6 to 10E9. This gentleman was getting 10E4. And he was getting that reading by measuring from, like I said, the top of the carpet to ground when he let the adhesive dry out. In other words, he let the adhesive lose a lot of its conductivity because it had moisture in it. Because it had moisture in it, he was able to get an acceptable reading to ground. However, had he taken the probes and put them on the surface of the tile, he still would have got an unacceptable reading. So, what he was told to do was to make something look good on paper.

Rick: So the FAA engineer was told to do the resistance testing in a way that produces the desired resistance reading. But this method does not provide an accurate resistance measurement of the flooring material itself. And so you could have a floor that is dangerously conductive on the surface. Even though testing of the whole flooring system, including the adhesive, produces a resistance reading that appears to be in compliance with FAA safety standards. This sounds like a bad idea with potentially dangerous consequences. What are the risks associated with overly conductive flooring in this type of environment?

Dave: When you populate a room with equipment, particularly a flight tower, you’ve got chassis, you’ve got blade servers, you’ve got racks that have metal feet that are electrically grounded because they’re electrical appliances. And when they get plugged in, the whole chassis becomes grounded. That would mean that anything that’s sitting on top of this floor would now be the new ground for the floor. Why would it be the new ground?

Because electricity flows to the path of least resistance. If the adhesive underneath it, even though it’s grounded, has a higher resistance, which it will, than the chassis, the chassis becomes the new ground. And now our floor goes from measuring over 10E6, to measuring close to zero, just by something interrupting the previous method of grounding it.

So when you look at an FAA document, one of the things they state is they want the floor to have a fair amount of electrical resistance. Because floors are used around what they call energized equipment. Energized equipment is nothing more than your laptop. Honestly, it’s your cell phone when you’re charging it up. So when I think about electrical safety, I’m not telling you that we can make people safe by providing floors with more electrical resistance than other floors. What I’m telling you is that if you don’t follow standards, you’re making people unsafe.

So please be careful in how you interpret what I’m telling you. What I’m telling you is, there are certain things that if you don’t follow the rules, you’re actually putting personnel, potentially, in a situation where they’re part of a dangerous electrical circuit. That said, I’ve never read and I’ve never heard of anyone getting electrocuted because of an ESD floor. But I also know that most engineers, most facilities people, architects and designers, their job is to do things, using best practices, not assuming liability that puts a customer in harm’s way.

Rick: Can you give us a real world example of something anyone can relate to, of the risk associated with having an overly conductive floor in a space that also has energized equipment in it?

Dave: We all on occasion use electrical appliances – hair dryers, things like that. We’re not afraid to hold a hair dryer in our hand drying our hair, standing on a dry floor. Would you ever want to do it while you’re sitting in a bathtub full of water? Well, that’s kind of what we’re talking about when the floor is too conductive.

We hope you learned something today. If you have questions about the podcast, give us a call at 617-923-2000. Even though we specialize in solving problems with flooring, if you have a question about static discharge, how to install a floor, how to test the floor, we’ll be glad to help you. Thanks for listening!

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StaticWorx high-performance static-control floors protect electronic components, explosives, and high-speed computers from damage caused by static electricity. ESD flooring is part of a system. Choices should always be based on objective, researched evidence. When you partner with us, we look at all possible items that may need to integrate with the floor, and, focusing on your goals and objectives, help you find the right floor for your application.

Play Video

StaticWorx high-performance static-control floors protect electronic components, explosives, and high-speed computers from damage caused by static electricity. ESD flooring is part of a system. Choices should always be based on objective, researched evidence. When you partner with us, we look at all possible items that may need to integrate with the floor, and, focusing on your goals and objectives, help you find the right floor for your application.

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Vermont Collection/ESD Planx

Staticworx Vermont Collection

“I’m so glad we were able to find an attractive solution that didn’t leave us with some run-of-the-mill ugly disaster.”

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Get in Touch

East Coast: 617-923-2000
Email: [email protected]

We accept these major credit cards.

The FAA has updated its standard for facilities and electronic equipment. StaticWorx meets all requirements for ESD flooring.

Flooring Products

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Sign up for our newsletter and occasional updates.

Flooring Products

We accept these major credit cards.

The FAA has updated its standard for facilities and electronic equipment. StaticWorx meets all requirements for ESD flooring.

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Share on facebook
Share on email
Share on whatsapp

Get in Touch

East Coast: 617-923-2000
Email: [email protected]

“I’m so glad we were able to find an attractive solution that didn’t leave us with some run-of-the-mill ugly disaster.”

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