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Confusing Conductive Flooring Terminology

Have you been asked to select a floor that is supposed to eliminate or minimize static charges accumulating on people when they walk on the floor?

What do you call such a floor?

If you have done any research in this area you've probably discovered something rather unusual. There seems to be many different and seemingly contradictory descriptors for this type of floor. To make this point, here are just a few descriptors used by the construction industry to describe this floor (and a free resource to help you decode them).

Section 09 61 36 of The Construction Specifications Institute calls this kind of floor a Static-Resistant Flooring Treatment. That makes sense; the purpose of the floor is to resist static. But wait; would it also make sense to control static? Control as in eliminate, mitigate, inhibit. There appears to be another CSI category (09660) called Static Control Flooring. What's the difference between static control and static resistant? Before you answer that question here's another CSI category: 09 65 33. This category is called Conductive Resilient Flooring. (Info courtesy of www.aecinfo.com) That's three descriptions for what seems to be the same thing.

The Construction Specification Institute isn't the only source of confusion in this dilemma of identifying technically sound walking surfaces that can eliminate static on human beings. Try using the www.google.com search engine to find your solution. Start out with words that make logical sense in a search for something that should prevent static. Try the words "antistatic flooring." The first thing you will notice is that Google will ask you, "did you mean anti static flooring?" So try searching anti static flooring instead of searching the way you originally spelled it. Now you get different search results than you did using the first spelling. Ditto if you hyphenate anti-static instead of spacing the two words. Now things really get really blurry. You're looking for "something" that the construction industry can't describe consistently and the worlds of Google, Bing and Yahoo can't seem to spell right. And worst of all, you are only looking at antistatic. You haven't even searched other descriptive synonyms like conductive, static dissipative, grounded, static-free, ESD safe, ESD flooring, shock resistant, static mitigating or non-static and low static generating. Some Internet searches even resort to application-oriented strategies in the hopes that they can whittle down the possible options based on suitability. They'll plug in words like like: data center flooring, hospital operating room flooring, cleanroom tile, MRI suite flooring or flooring for handling explosives. You could have a field day thinking up all the possible word combinations for this kind of walking surface. Several years ago we actually created an Excel spread sheet that contained over 2000 possible word combinations for something that is supposed to do the following:

  • Permanently prevent static on people who are standing or moving
  • Be certifiable to some standard that verifies safety and performance
  • Meet the requirements of the space, environment and application

I hear questions and comments about this dilemma every day.

This confusion is the number one reason we get calls from end users asking us to test their static flooring solution because something doesn't seem to be right. Recently, we were asked to test some anti static high pressure laminate (AKA HPL) installed on raised access flooring panels in a semiconductor fabrication facility. The client believed their maintenance department must have harmed the HPL floor because the floor was no longer antistatic. And as a result, extremely low levels of static — lower voltage discharges were zapping static sensitive parts than can be felt by a person. It turned out that the HPL floor was never a good investment because it was incapable of discharging static on people walking on it. The floor lacked the most basic ingredients required to transport electricity from one place to another; it was not made with electrical conducting materials like carbon, graphite, silver or gold. Without the presence of electrical conducting materials, it is not possible for electricity to move through a material. Instead, electricity was getting stuck. The static charges were staying on the people and on the floor. We call that kind of electricity - static electricity. If you don't understand this concept think of an electrical plug. There's a reason you don't get a shock when you plug your hair dryer into an AC electrical outlet. It's because the plug is made of a non-conducting plastic material. If the plug were made with conductive materials electricity would flow through it. You would also get a shock.

So, how do you get on track and find this elusive floor that has no universal name, can't be spelled properly and apparently if you don't get lucky and describe it right, you could end up with the opposite of what you wanted?

Oh, and one more thing, once you get the description down you will need to decide if the floor should be resilient, carpet, paint, wax, rubber, vinyl, epoxy, urethane, HPL, or maybe matting. Could this be confusing? We think so. That's why we built www.staticworx.com. Every single article, specification, test result and comment has been vetted by independent standard organizations or technical editorial boards. And, if that is not enough, we update and refute any technical premises that have been superseded or proven to be incorrect.


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