Rick: Welcome to Static Bursts. Our podcast series will discuss the threat static electricity poses to your business, and how to address those risks.
Dave: I’m your host, Dave Long, founder and president of Staticworx. We make static control flooring.
Rick: And I’m your co-host, Rick Frauton.
Dave, could you tell our listeners about some of the potential pitfalls or common mistakes that are made when choosing and installing an ESD floor?
Dave: There are actually a lot of things that can go wrong with an ESD floor, but I think there are probably three main fundamentals that, if you can avoid those fundamental problems, you can end up with a successful project. So very quickly, I’m just going to tell you what the three of them are and then we’ll break them down. So the first one is the wrong pairing of the ESD flooring product to the application. So by that I mean choosing a type of floor whether it’s an epoxy floor, carpet floor, vinyl, rubber and using it in an application or a space where it’s just not the right choice.
The second biggest mistake is not taking into consideration cost of ownership. And a big cost of ownership is the maintenance that will go on and the repairs that will happen over time. That’s a little bit complicated because some products last for a certain amount of time, and then they begin to deteriorate due to the activity that’s going on in the space. We’ll talk about both maintenance and repairs and the longevity of a floor. We’re going to talk about all of them from the perspective of Total Cost of Ownership.
Then the third mistake that many, many companies make, and I’ll actually give you some examples, because we run into these all the time, is people fail to test the floor immediately after it’s installed. And that can lead to all sorts of problems because now you don’t have a baseline.
So let’s go back to the first mistake, the wrong pairing of the product to the application. Let’s suppose you’re the specifier. Maybe you’re a designer, or maybe you’re an engineer that’s been hired by a company to help them choose the right floor. The very first thing you need to think about is, am I looking for this floor to reduce static electricity on people when they wear regular footwear? So what I’m saying is some floors are used in applications where part of the protocols of that space involve putting on special footwear. So for example, the electronics assembly industry, all employees who touch electronic products that they’re manufacturing, wear what are called heel straps, or ESD shoes. That’s part of the controls that are in place in that factory. And in fact, those special footwear protocols are mandated so that when an employee arrives at the workspace, they put the special footwear on and before they are allowed entry to the manufacturing area, they have to touch a button on a footwear tester. And they get either a red light or green light that either approves or disapproves of their going any further out onto the manufacturing floor.
So some floors only work with special footwear. So it’s not that there’s anything wrong with those floors but they are made to ground a human being who was wearing some kind of conductive materials on their shoe so that the human being is electrically bonded from their own body through their shoe. In this case, a conductive shoe, to the floor. A lot of these types of floors don’t prevent static electricity on a person, if they’re just wearing regular shoes. So an easy way for me to tell you this is you walk out onto the floor with a pair of athletic shoes on and you don’t put on these special heel straps. Even if the floor is conductive and verified as conductive by someone who’s tested it, if you walk on that conductive floor and it happens to be either vinyl or a epoxy you’re going to generate a lot of static electricity. It’s not because the floor doesn’t have conductivity. It’s because the floor is not a low-generating material.
So when you’re looking at pairing a floor with an application, you have to ask yourself, what type of footwear will people be wearing in my space. So, for example, in a 9-1-1 call center, the people who work there, they wear regular shoes that can be anything from dress shoes to work boots to maybe, in some cases, they kick their shoes off while they’re sitting at their position. So a floor in a 9-1-1 call center has to be a very low-generating material, because while the person is working, they’re going to be walking around with static-generating footwear.
On the flip side of it, an electronics assembly facility, they wouldn’t worry as much about the generation of static electricity, because they’re going to require the person to wear certain types of footwear. However, when you qualify the floor for the electronics manufacturing and assembly operation you need to test it to make sure that the footwear choices that you will be using in that space, work with that floor. We covered that in a previous podcast. But if you’re interested in knowing more about that, we have an article that was published by In Compliance Magazine called “Qualifying ESD Floors.” And we’ll get into that topic fairly deeply so I’m not going to spend a lot of time on it here.
Rick: So one consideration when selecting an ESD flooring material is the type of footwear worn by the people who will be working in the space. The resulting static charge generated by the repeated contact and separation of those two materials as people move through the space is a very important factor to be aware of. What other factors come into play when matching flooring material to a customer’s application?
Dave: So when you’re looking at applications, the first thing you need to think about is what type of footwear will people be wearing. And then there’s the more obvious application choices -durability. You’re not going to put carpet in a warehouse. But maybe in your warehouse, you need ESD flooring. Obviously, you’re going to put something in that warehouse that’s going to stand up to pallet jacks and forklifts and all the durability issues that you might have.
If it’s a clean room, you’re going to be installing flooring that in some cases can’t have any seams. So maybe you’re looking at a coating, maybe you’re looking at rubber ESD sheet flooring that can be seam-welded and cove-based up the walls so that you do not have any opportunity for particulate to collect.
So when we think about application and pairing floors, we’ve got epoxy, vinyl, rubber, paint, ESD wax and ESD carpet. Your concern and your space might involve ergonomics. So you might like the idea of using a hard surface floor in a call center because you know it’s very easy to keep it clean. But in a call center one of the more important aspects to the tasks that people perform is the ability to be aware and be helpful to the person on the other end of the communication. If it’s a 9-1-1 call center, the dispatcher needs to have complete understanding of the person they’re talking to, because that could be a matter of life or death. So in those spaces, they like the idea of the floor attenuating sound. So they may be more interested in ESD carpet tiles than they’re interested in ESD epoxy because they need the space to have some ability to absorb noise. So the takeaway here is, think carefully about the space and how many different factors the floor could physically contribute to its longevity, but also to making the tasks easier for the people working in that space.
Rick: Today we discussed the importance of matching ESD flooring material to the type of work performed in the space. This is one of three fundamental categories of mistakes that are commonly made in the selection process. In our next episode, we continue this conversation by discussing the importance of the Total Cost of Ownership, which should include any downtime associated with the installation process, as well as why post-installation compliance testing should never be overlooked.
Dave: 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.