In the ESD Protected Area (EPA) we face many safety risks. Because we ground everything, and I mean everything, our operators can be exposed to hard ground hazards that can lead to electric shock or worse. What is a hard ground, you might ask? It’s a low resistance grounded conductor. Think metals. And just because you’ve played it by the book (S20.20) doesn’t mean you are safe from these hazards. What we will cover here is going to show you why you need to rethink the technology at your bench and how you can better protect against threats posed by hard ground—keeping you and your team safe.
The ESD world can sometimes be hyper focused, putting too much emphasis on voltages and scientific notation. And if you just follow the recommended ESDA Standards, or are simply trying to be compliant, you without a doubt will overlook trade-offs that impact business; some operationally, some financially and some safety. And today, the topic we are concerned about is safety.
Hard Ground, Hard Truth
Hard grounds are a serious threat, dead(ly) serious. So what does that threat look like? It can be as innocent as an operator brushing up against, leaning against—or worse, clutching—a low resistance conductor with a path to ground. All it takes is a screw or bolt on a bench to create a circuit that shorts you to ground. Sure just touching a grounded conductor itself isn’t a safety issue. The missing ingredient that makes this a perilous concoction is electricity. Not static electricity, but the kind with amperes, and as the saying goes “current kills”.
But hey, this is why we have ESD wrist straps right? That’s the intention, and while they do provide a level of safety, it’s not true under all conditions. Because with the right mix of bad things, you are no longer protected by the resistor built into the ESD wrist strap or coil cord. Unaware, electrical shorts created by contact with hard grounds at the bench expose conditions where current could freely flow through your body.
All it takes is being in contact with a malfunctioning solder station, microscope, power tool, or any other piece of equipment that becomes electrified—and it’s game over! And this is why you need to be aware, at all times, of hard grounds and know the threats they pose.
So now that we understand what we are dealing with, let’s take a look at why the industry is failing you and how Botron has addressed this very serious threat.
The Big Letdown
Most dual wire wrist strap monitors, including the ubiquitous 724, suffer from many shortcomings. One of which is intrinsic to their design, measuring only the resistance over a circuit: made by you, the wrist band and coil cord. So it’s either pass (on closed) or fail (on open). And the most glaring and negligent side effect of this is the inability to detect or alert a hard ground fault. Thus, you are left under the pretense of being safely grounded in this hazardous condition. And this is the Elephant in the
So what’s the solution? We monitor for hard ground faults, and this is one of the many features that sets the Sentinel apart.
Out With The Old, In With The New
So what does the Sentinel do that other ESD monitors don’t? Well, a lot of things, but for starters we’ve turned your everyday wrist strap into a sensor. And because of this—The Sentinel keeps a watchful eye on you, as the operator, monitoring your path to ground as you come in contact with the many grounded things in and around your ESD Protected Area—including hard grounds. These faults trigger events that not only alert you at the bench both visually and audibly—all data is captured and streamed in real-time to the ELITE DataSystems for remote monitoring.
The Sentinel will allow you to understand more about your environment, creating awareness of exactly what hazards exist and how to avoid them. Monitoring wrist straps is part of ESDA Standards, but following the playbook doesn’t come with a guarantee. The ESD Protected Area is complicated, the safety risks therein aren’t always obvious. We changed the game with the ELITE ESD Test System, and we’ve done it again with the Sentinel, It’s time to rethink the equipment on your bench and move on to something more ELITE.
Looking for more info?
For more information on the ELITE Sentinel, or to get a web demo from a product expert, drop us a line. We look forward to hearing from you.