How To Use An Anti Static Wrist Strap

An anti static wrist strap, or ESD wrist strap, is an important piece of safety gear you need in any anti static or ESD preventative program.

I’m often questioned about the basic items for protection from static discharge.  A quality wrist strap, like our patented anti static wrist strap WS-1020, is a must have item.

It’s not uncommon to hear hobbyists and others say ‘Oh, I don’t bother using a wrist strap.  I just touch some metal to discharge any static before I touch my work.” 

The reality is that’s like driving a car with the doors locked but not using a seatbelt.  Yes, you may be perfectly fine but there are numerous examples where that doesn’t offer reliable protection.

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Static Discharge

When speaking with someone about what it is we manufacture at Static Solutions I usually begin by talking about static.

Here’s my go-to-story.  Remember being a kid, rubbing your feet on carpet and then touching a metal door knob, TV, or a sibling/friend.  Do you recall getting a zap?  That is a static discharge.

As a kid the results can range from laughter to aggravating.  (depending if you are the zapper or the zappie!)

When it comes to working with high tech equipment, circuit boards, explosives, in operating rooms and other areas where static is of concern, a static discharge can be expensive, time consuming, annoying or depending on the situation, deadly.

Often a static discharge isn’t noticed.  However just because you aren’t aware of it doesn’t mean it didn’t cause a loss of performance, immediate damage or a future failure.

When it comes to fuel, explosives and some chemicals, a spark can be the beginning of an explosion, fire, injury or death.

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What Is An Anti Static Wrist Strap

An anti static wrist strap is worn by the user and in essence gives a way for a static discharge to leave you and safely discharge to the ground.

The wrist strap is often a bright color, easily seen by others and a good visual reminder to the user.  The wrist strap should be comfortable and fit snug to allow a proper connection.

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anti static wrist strap line at Static Solutions

How Does It Work

A static discharge from you travels to the wrist strap from a direct connection to your skin.  That discharge then follows a path from the wrist strap to the cord and so on until it reaches ground and is safely dissipated.  (Please note, constant monitors, mats, grounding points and other extensions of a path can also be on the way to ground.)

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Why Use An Anti Static Wrist Strap

The simple answer is to take a step to insure any static discharge has a way to go from you to ground.

As mentioned above a static discharge can result in damage to whatever you are working on.  Wouldn’t you rather avoid that from happening?  Your work is important and repeating each step because of damage isn’t how most people want to spend their time. 

By wearing your wrist strap you’ve taken one major step towards preventing a damaging static discharge.  You also set the tone as a professional for your peers, manager and anyone who may report to you.

It’s not uncommon on hobby/interest boards and groups online to see very little adherence to ESD procedures.  Visit any major company or start up and you will see all the steps they take to be compliant when it comes to ESD. 

While it may also be a requirement of your employer that you wear a wrist strap my guess is you hold yourself to a higher standard.  You know the amount of time, energy and effort you’ve put in towards your career and you are professional. 

You demand more of yourself than anyone so doing your best, especially when all it takes is something as easy as wearing a wrist strap.  It’s just one additional way you show how powerful you truly are when it comes to your career path.

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What Color

The colors of wrist straps don’t indicate any level of protection.  A brightly colored wrist strap allows for a quick visual that the person is wearing their ESD/anti static equipment.  They also stand out on a workbench or table making it easier to find and put on.

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How Often Should An Anti Static Wrist Strap Be Replaced

There is no specific rule on a lifespan of a wrist strap.  Any company policies should be followed on replacements but a good general rule of thumb is to look at the overall use, possible wear and cleanliness of your individual wrist strap.

Often companies determine a guideline on replacing them annually, semi-annually or quarterly. 

This small change can often feel good for those that use a wrist strap daily and especially those who share a wrist strap at a common workbench or workstation.

It can be a small investment in employee satisfaction to have an upgrade to the tools and equipment on a regular basis.  Replacing a wrist strap can be a small but strong signal from management that the company cares about proper ESD procedures.

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ESD Mats & Rolls

Left or Right

Which wrist you decide to wear your anti static wrist strap on is often a matter of personal preference. 

If you have the grounding point for the wrist strap cord on your left you may find wearing the wrist strap on your left makes the most sense.  That way the cord isn’t dragging across your work. 

However, you may find that it is better for you to move the grounding point to your right and then wear the wrist strap on your right hand.

If you share a workbench/workspace with others and some of you have a preference for the left and some for the right we offer two grounding snaps on each mat and can easily place them to your preference on an ESD mat.  Let us know your preference when ordering your next mat.

Speaking of left or right, some people find it best to wear the wrist strap on their ankle so their hands are free from any cords.  This is often the case in surgical rooms, labs and some clean rooms.

Again, personal preference and company policies should be considered.

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Remember This

Once you realize you should take every step you can to not create an improper static discharge one of the biggest obstacles to overcome is remembering to wear the wrist strap.

Here is where the simplicity of having a routine can be effective.  Develop an easy to follow set of steps you take each time and you will find greater success in developing a habit.

You may determine as soon as you approach your ESD work area the first thing you do is put on your wrist strap and verify you are connected to ground.

Make it fun!  Create an accountability with others on your team.  Make a game between you and your co-workers.  If they see you without a wrist strap on they can ‘call you on it’ and you then buy them their coffee at the next break!

Make it enjoyable and a way that works best for you.

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Don’t Believe The Hype

One myth, or misunderstanding, is to use a wrist strap properly all you need to do is connect it with an alligator clip to a computer or whatever you are working on, and you are good to go.

This at best equalizes you to the surface you are connected to but does not work on grounding you, or allow a way for any static to discharge properly.  To accomplish that you need to connect to a grounded mat or ground in some other way to provide the path for a discharge to safely flow.

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The Future Of Wrist Straps

Occasionally I get asked about ‘wireless’ wrist straps.  While the simplicity of not having a wire connected to a wrist strap sounds like a great idea the technology of how a path is created for a discharge hasn’t yet been perfected and there is no recognized professional agreement that this is effective.

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In The End

Wearing an anti static wrist strap is really simple and once you develop the habit it will become second nature for you. 

In the end you will be taking one more step towards doing the best you can and that is all anyone can ask.

Share your feedback and thoughts below and as this information is updated I’ll incorporate some of your ideas and tips.

Mark

You are powerful!  Be grounded.

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