[ASK RON] What is the Minimum I Need to Protect Myself When working?

Hi Ron!

Thanks for offering this facility.

I’m a PC enthusiast and re-build my own PC quite often.  I’m quite careful, but worry about damaging graphics cards and memory chips, things like that.  What is the mimumum I’d need from your shop to protect myself when working?

Thanks

Tim


Hi Tim,

Thank you for your question. The problem with grounding is that many people are working with partial knowledge and don’t know the correct way to ground themselves.

Myth: Some people will try connecting a wrist strap & crocodile clip to a PC Chassis and think this will ground them sufficiently.

Origin: Grounding in this way originated from people who worked in PC Assembly stations, where they used the crocodile clip system. However, their work benches were grounded properly, removing the static volts. As home PC Maintenance became popular, the knowledge of correct ESD  procedures was widely unknown and unpractised. Many wonderful, weird ideas on how to ground yourself were spread through blogs and word of mouth – methods like tying copper wires to ankles, etc.

There are two problems with using a crocodile strap on a PC Chassis:

1. You need connect to Earth so your static volts dissipate.
The first issue is that if you haven’t got a grounded work bench, all you are going to do is create a balance in the amount of static in your body, i.e., if your body carries 1000v, then this will balance out at 500v each between you and the PC chassis. This method does not remove the static volts to ground.

2. Doing so with your PC plugged in is DANGEROUS.
Secondly, as some people leave the PC plugged in, thinking that the static volts will ground via the power supply plug’s earth, this potentially extremely dangerous. In a situation where there is a leakage in your mains, being connected in this way could lead to your being electrocuted!

When you’re working on a PC, the absolute minimum of decent protection would be:

  • A quality grounding plug, which has a 1 mega-ohm resistor for safety.
  • A cable with 10mm snap end, of a good length so you won’t trip on it.
  • An Anti-static wrist strap (with a 10mm stud for the cable to connect to).

If you’re a serious hobbyist, you could think about adding a grounding mat to the list, which adds multiple benefits. Your wrist strap can be connected to the mat, offering more flexibility, the components have a soft, safe place to rest whilst you’re soldering, and it protects your bench or table from soldering spillage/heat.

You can get our UK Grounding Kit (12 ft cable) here. I hope you’ve found this information useful.

Good luck!
Ron.

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