The low down on ESD matting

In shopping for mats, you may have seen some labeled “ESD.” They don’t look much different from other mats you’ve seen in industrial settings, so what makes ESD mating different? And what does ESD mean anyway?
ESD stands for Electrostatic Discharge, and ESD matting is designed to drain static electricity from people to protect sensitive equipment from damage.
It's nearly impossible to eliminate electrostatic charges in the workplace. A person walking can generate a static charge and then transfer it to a device. Devices with automated parts can also generate an electrostatic charge on their own, and these charges will discharge when brought into contact with another object.
These charges can cause a device to breakdown completely or lead to of the partial degradation of a sensitive device, decreasing its productivity and longevity. But, by laying down properly-grounded ESD matting, you can neutralize harmful electrostatic charges.

How do ESD mats work?

ESD matting is rated in terms of resistance to electrostatic charges, measured in ohms. The lower the resistance the more quickly static is accepted by the matting. There are three classifications of ESD mats:
  1. Electrically Conductive: The most frequently used type of ESD matting, these mats accept static electricity most quickly. They have a low electrical resistance (10^1 to 10^5 ohms), which allows ESD to flow across the surface of the mat.
  2. Static Dissipative: The middle range of ESD matting, these mats have a resistance of 10^6 to 10^9 ohms.
  3. Anti-Static: These mats have a higher electrical resistance than conductive mats (10^10 to 10^14 ohms). They allow ESD to flow across the surface at a slower rate than electrically conductive mats, which prevents damage to microcircuit devices that cannot withstand a sudden flow of static charge from the device to a grounded mat.

So when should you opt for ESD matting?

These mats often have anti-fatigue properties in addition to their ESD qualities so may be appropriate for any industrial setting housing electronics.

How can you improve the effectiveness of ESD mats?

As mentioned before, ESD mats should be grounded for optimal effectiveness. Grounding involves attaching mats to a ground cord, which provides a controlled path through which static electricity can pass. The terminal can be connected to an electrical outlet using the screw in the outlet cover.
Workers in facilities with ESD mats should also be equipped with heel grounders. These are strapped to the heels of rubber-soled shoes to allow static electricity to pass around the shoe into the the ESD matting.