What Does Electrostatic Energy Mean?
Electrostatic refers to electromagnetic phenomena which occur when there are no moving electrical charges on or within a given material. When electrostatic energy is built up on a given material, it is referred to as a “static charge.” The amount of static charge that an object can hold depends on the physical properties of the material it is constructed with.
Electrostatic charges can pose both direct and indirect safety risks. A direct risk is simply the pain that a worker can experience when experiencing an electrostatic shock. Indirect safety risks include the potential of a static discharge to create a spark, which could then cause a fire within a flammable environment.
Safeopedia Explains Electrostatic Energy
Workplace electrostatic shocks are typically not severe enough to cause injury to workers, although they may cause pain. There is a limit to the amount of charge that any single item can hold, and this limit is typically below the threshold for a direct injury. The primary safety risks posed by an electrostatic shock are that it will cause consequential damages, which are damages that are not caused by the electrostatic discharge itself, but as a consequence of an event that the discharge causes.
An electrostatic discharge can cause consequential damage if a static shock interrupts an individual during a safety-sensitive task, causing an accident. Electrostatic discharges can also damage sensitive electronic equipment, which could have negative safety consequences if the equipment has a safety function.
The most significant danger posed by electrostatic discharge is probably the danger that the discharge will generate a spark that causes a fire or explosion. Any workplace that involves an explosive atmosphere, such as environments with high levels of petrochemical fumes or high levels of airborne dusts, needs to be protected against electrostatic discharges. Flammable environments require similar protection.
Because friction between two materials can create enough static charge to cause a spark, workers may be required to wear anti-static gloves when working in flammable environments.
Depending on the workplace, the fire and explosion dangers posed by electrostatic shocks can be very significant. The National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA’s) static electricity standard, NFPA 77, is specifically concerned with fire and explosion prevention. Electrostatic shocks and other unwanted discharges are usually prevented through the use of a grounding instrument; the use of a ground prevents the buildup of a static charge, thus eliminating the risk of a potentially hazardous electrostatic discharge.