ESD Control Plan, ESD Equipment, ESD Safety

Why you need to create an ESD control plan now

Do you currently have an ESD control plan in place? If your business operates in the manufacturing, biomedical, warehousing or semiconductor industry or you’ve probably experienced some static electricity issues. While the term “static electricity” sounds harmless enough, it can cause significant damage to sensitive electronic equipment and workers in close proximity to an ESD event. This forces companies to repeatedly replace expensive equipment. Without an ESD control plan in place, there’s no protection in the work environment from electrostatic damage (ESD).

Static buildup can occur from simple actions, such as the pouring, mixing, and filtering of different materials, rubbing against work surfaces, dragging tools across tables and workbenches, and much more.

In ESD-sensitive work environments, static electricity poses a threat to both employee safety and product security. A stray spark could cause a fire or significantly damage sensitive electronic products. Thus, it is vitally important to implement a comprehensive ESD control plan that can minimize the threat of accidental discharges in the workplace.

Why an ESD Control Plan Is Critical for Safety

As dangerous as static electricity is, it’s unique among workplace hazards in that it’s relatively simple to control when proper safety procedures are consistently applied. The simplest way to ensure total ESD protection is to create and enforce an ESD control plan within your work environment. The control plan should include extensive measures for how employees can protect themselves, as well as methods for avoiding accidental damage to company products and equipment.

Creating an ESD Control Plan

The Occupational Safety Hazard Administration (OSHA) lays out basic steps for creating a safety policy. In general, all safety plans require six elements:

  1. Policy goals that explain the hazards your company is trying to avoid
  2. Designation of responsibility that ensures safety measures and policies are adhered to
  3. Hazard identification to increase worker safety and enhance equipment and product protection
  4. Controls and tools that will mitigate or eliminate hazards
  5. Emergency response policy that clearly explains the safety measures to take in the case of ESD events
  6. Recordkeeping and training notifications that will help identify ways to improve the ESD control plan

ESD control plans contain many of the same features found in typical safety plans. However, they have a few unique requirements:

  • Defining what exactly needs to be protected under the ESD control policy
  • Establishing a specialized, strictly labeled ESD protected area (EPA) – this is especially critical in allowing companies to provide the highest level of protection without incurring extra costs
  • Installing specialized ESD safety markers in the factory, plant, or general work environment

It’s often said that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. This couldn’t be more true when it comes to your ESD control plan. Investing in ESD training for employees and ESD safety equipment and tools that improve workplace safety will lead to a significant decrease in the likelihood of accidental discharges.

ESD control plan training should focus on how to properly use common ESD safety equipment to minimize ESD event risks.

Common ESD-safe equipment:

ESD control plans should also include directions for how to produce, handle, and package static-sensitive products. For instance, such a plan could provide instructions for:

  • How to securely move products from a clean room into a non-cleanroom
  • Safely discharging body-generated static electricity before directly handling products and equipment
  • Preparing a product for shipping to another facility

Your ESD control plan should be readily available in both the workplace and safety training sessions. Additionally, company safety personnel should be prepared to recertify on an annual basis to improve overall ESD safety in the workplace.

A Note on ESD Control Plans

There’s a very specific reason these safety measures are referred to as ESD control plans and not ESD elimination plans. The risk of ESD can never be fully removed. It’s important to notify individuals entering that workspace of your ESD safety measures so safety isn’t compromised. Establishing an ESD control plan will help your company build a safeguard against the threat of hazardous ESD events.