The Hazards of Static Electricity


Although the generation and accumulation of static electricity is invisible and discrete, it holds a very real possibility of a potential discharge igniting combustible materials and atmospheres as static earthing equipment specialist Newson Gale explains.

Because static accumulation occurs at the atomic level, it is naturally difficult to visualise how and why static electricity is accumulating. While in everyday life static electricity is generally regarded as a nuisance, in hazardous process industries its effects can be devastating. Incidents that have occurred globally are a testament to that, and mitigating such risks is critical for loss prevention of business continuity, workforce and plant assets. Discharges of static electricity have been identified as the ignition source for a broad range of processes, especially those involving movement – for example product transfer, mixing and size reduction. It is as potent as sparks resulting from mechanical and electrical sources, and yet it is often underestimated, either due to a lack of awareness of the risks it poses or because of neglect and/or complacency.

International codes of practice such as IEC 60079-32-1 provide guidelines for the effective control of static electricity, involving grounding and bonding all conductive and static dissipative plant and equipment in explosive atmospheres to prevent charge accumulation. This may sound simple enough in theory, but in practice is more difficult to achieve if you consider the large number of static critical applications commonly found in industry, often coupled with the presence of non-conductive materials, surface coatings and other insulating substances. Ideally, any control measures used should provide a seamless interface with normal plant operation and involve simple, user-friendly procedures.

Despite the ever-present dangers, by eliminating the accumulation of charge and the potential for an uncontrolled electrostatic discharge, the resulting ignition risk is eradicated. It is important that users not only understand the risks but are also accommodated with a practical solution fit for their business and application needs.

Of course, recognition of the hazard is only the first step. Regular static hazard awareness training combined with grounding equipment that displays compliance with industry codes will go a long way to eliminating fires and explosions caused by static electricity. A HAZOP risk assessment report will identify hazards, evaluate associated risks and provide guidance on the subsequent control of the hazards.

To help control these risks, Newson Gale offers a wide range of static grounding and bonding equipment which is made to provide optimum safety in explosive atmospheres for a variety of process applications. The Newson Gale range prevents static charge accumulation by using practical and innovative design, and ensures effective static control on three levels – grounding and bonding clamps, visual verification systems and interlocking control systems.

To discuss your process application or speak to one of our experts, call 0115 940 7500 or visit our website.


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