Static electricity is everywhere and while it can never be totally eliminated, it can be controlled with proper bonding and grounding — emphasis on the word “proper”. One little spark is all it takes to create a disaster of gigantic proportions.
At an industrial job site, the most common generators of static electricity are procedures that involve flammable liquids. Pouring, pumping, filtering or mixing these liquids can generate static electricity.
Bonding connects pieces of conductive equipment together to keep them at the same potential. When connected objects have the same potential, static sparking cannot take place.
Grounding is a special form of bonding. It connects conductive equipment to the earth so there is no sparking between conductive equipment and grounded structures.
In potentially flammable locations, conductive objects that are electrically isolated from ground by nonconductors should be bonded instead of grounded because even an isolated, conductive object can become charged enough to cause a static spark.
Fortunately there are newer, more advanced “electronic verification systems” that can help take the guesswork out of proper grounding. These systems offer a continuous visual and electronic confirmation of grounding. Some even have alarms as a third layer of protection. Through “interlock” functions these systems can control motors, pumps, valves and more, or they can interface with a PLC or DCS control system so no procedures will take place until a correct ground is achieved.
An explosion on the job site can cost lives, damage property and so much more. Make sure all workers are safe with proper bonding and grounding equipment followed by on-going training.