When most people think of winters, they think of the cold weather. We often forget that the winter months are drier, too. And with that dry weather comes a higher likelihood of static electric shock.
Thankfully, static elimination is surprisingly easy to achieve. In this article, we'll run through the steps you can take to prevent or reduce static shocks.
What Is Static Electricity?
Simply put, static electricity is an electric charge that cannot move. It is a charge that accumulates on a surface as a result of contact and friction with another surface. This contact or friction causes an accumulation of electrons on one surface, and a deficiency of electrons on the other surface.
Common Sources of Static Electricity in the Home and Workplace
Static electric fields occur naturally in the atmosphere, but are also found in our homes and at our workplaces. Some common sources of static electricity include:
- Shoes coming in contact with wool or nylon carpets
- Clothing such as wool sweaters
- The skin on the hands, especially if the air is dry
- Metallic door knobs
- Machines can build up static electric charges and then transfer it to our bodies through electrostatic induction
Hazards Associated with Static Electricity
The main hazard associated with static electricity is the creation of sparks, especially in explosive or flammable atmospheres. These sparks can set off an explosion or fire. However, for static electricity to be a hazard, four conditions must be present:
- A means for a static charge to develop
- Enough energy buildup to cause ignition
- A discharge of this energy, such as a spark
- The spark must occur in an ignitable vapor or dust mixture
Static Electricity in the Workplace
Static electricity causes two main workplace concerns:
- The ignition of flammable materials or atmospheres, which can cause fires
- Harm to sensitive electronic components and equipment
(Learn more about Choosing the Right Tools for Working in Explosive Work Environments)
The Health Effects of Static Electricity
In the few studies conducted investigating the effects of static electric fields on animals, no negative health effects have been observed since static electric fields do not enter the body. However, they cause an electric charge on the body surface, which can result in movement of body hairs and small electric shocks.
Studies conducted on static electricity exposure in the workplace also found increased risks of various cancers. However, these results are not consistent across studies.
(Find out How to Reduce the Risk of Occupational Cancer)
How Can Static Electricity Be Controlled?
- Wear shoes with leather soles
- Avoid wearing clothing made of wool, opt for cotton instead
- Use furniture covers made of natural fibers, as synthetic ones accumulate more static charge
- Use a humidifier to increase the humidity of the air and make the atmosphere less favorable to static electricity
- Keep your hands moisturized or use anti-static hand lotion
- Place anti-static mats on the floors and work surfaces
- Ground yourself before touching machinery and other sensitive equipment
Don't Get Shocked!
If you take the proper steps, you can reduce or prevent the build up static electric charges, eliminating the risk of getting shocked.