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Q Source Guide to ESD vs. Anti-Static Work Safety Wear

Esd vs Anti-Static

There are certainly some similarities between electrostatic-sensitive devices (ESDs) and anti-static materials, chief among them the fact that they are both designed to prevent electrostatic discharges for the purposes of protection, typically when working with highly sensitive materials such as electronics or medical devices and in high-risk work environments involving explosives, extreme heat, or flammable gases. There are, however, some important distinctions that people who work - or play, as some do - under these conditions should be aware of to ensure that they are making the most appropriate, safest choices.

What does ‘ESD’ mean?

The acronym “ESD” actually stands for two different terms - the potentially harmful Electro-Static Discharge and Electrostatic Sensitive Devices. For the purposes of this article, we are specifically talking about protective clothing designed to prevent static buildup that causes electro-static discharge.

One of the fundamental differences between ESDs and antistatics is that ESDs are primarily meant to protect ultra-sensitive products from static discharges inadvertently brought on by the people who handle them, whereas the primary function of antistatics is to protect people who work with highly flammable, explosive, or electrically charged materials from potentially harmful or even fatal static discharges. For example, employers who work with highly sensitive pieces of technology such as microchips often are required to wear ESD materials on their hands, feet, faces, and bodies because even the slightest static discharge could compromise the product or worse, disrupt the entire production process and cost a company millions of dollars. Still worse yet, in the biomedical and pharmaceutical fields, a product’s exposure to static discharges could put human lives at risk.

ESD garments may include gloves, lab jackets, facemasks, shoes, and shoe covers made with conductive carbon or metal fibers designed to prevent static buildup. QRP Gloves Inc. is one top manufacturer of ESD gloves that are used throughout the manufacturing, biomedical, and technology industries, while other ESD garment manufacturers of lab jackets, shoe covers, and masks include Tech Wear Inc. and Transforming Technologies. In addition, Q Source is a leading distributor of all the best static control products for all of these industries and many others.

How is anti-static different from ESD?

The term “anti-static” is a little more straightforward than “ESD” in that anti-static materials are designed with the explicit function of preventing static charges. No acronyms, no double-meanings, and they flat-out cannot become statically charged.

An illustration we can all relate to that helps to understand both ESDs and anti-statics is when you glide along the carpet in your home in your wool socks. Your body becomes a vessel of sorts that carries static energy across the room until you touch something conductive, resulting in a mild or sometimes even a significant shock. ESD garments and protective anti-static clothing prevent that discharge from occurring and, in the case of ESDs as mentioned above, it is to protect a highly sensitive and important product that’s usually very expensive as well.

In the case of antistatics, however, the protection is meant for the person who would be carrying the electrostatic charge if not for anti-static shoes, gloves, masks, or coats. If that person works with explosives, electricity, highly flammable gases, extreme heat, or any number of other hazardous materials, that little shock you get in your home could quite possibly set off a fatal explosion, electrocution, fire, or chemical reaction.

Despite their fundamentally different functions - protecting products vs. protecting people - ESD and anti-static garments involve most of the same manufacturers. QRP Gloves Inc. makes anti-static finger cots, Transforming Technologies has a line of anti-static lab jackets, and Q Source has them all and a lot more.


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