Are You Grounded?®: New Industry Trends Expose the Need for Anti-Static Rubber Flooring
We recommend watching this video, "How to Choose Anti-Static Carpet for 911 Call Centers and FAA Applications" before reading this archived article about static electricity discharge problems in emergency 911 dispatch call centers. You will learn why it is important to reference compliance with standards like Motorola R56 and ATIS 0600321 before ever installing any static control carpet in any type of call center or command room.
Article published in the Jan/Feb 2010 issue of Emergency Number Professional Magazine about static problems in 911 dispatch call centers
By David Long
It's no secret that in 9-1-1 communications centers, employees must be alert and responsive at all times. This is challenging in any circumstances, but it is more difficult when environmental factors impede employees' concentration. Recent research shows how important it is to assist public safety professionals by reducing work stressors and eliminating distractions. According to Francis Holt, author of Emergency Communication Management, work environment issues like "lighting, noise, ventilation, windows, security and ergonomics can take just as much out of dispatchers as the work itself."
The choice of flooring products has always been a key environmental factor in keeping 9-1-1 communications centers stress-free and static-free (mitigating risks like equipment failure and shutdowns). In mission-critical environments, carpet has in the past been viewed as a good flooring option since it is moderately priced and has other benefits. However, as a result of heightened work site sensitivities, new technology and more available educational material on static-free flooring, the trade-offs of carpet versus resilient flooring alternatives are becoming more exposed.1
Emergency personnel need to be "well-grounded" and focused on day-to-day and minute-to-minute aspects of their job.
Increasingly, work sites are finding that anti-static, Eclipse EC rubber flooring, with its fault-tolerant properties and other advantages, is a better alternative (until recently, rubber flooring was only available as a static dissipative product, which provides a less electrostatic discharge [ESD]). In fact, during independent testing, MIT Lincoln Laboratories has found that Eclipse EC rubber is the only fault-tolerant, static-resistant product that works regardless of footwear or relative humidity. This is critical since special shoes and grounding bracelets, commonly used by workers in electronic assembly facilities, don't fly in 9-1-1 operations.
Weigh the Variables
Before selecting a static-free flooring solution, it is important to weigh a number of variables. Following is a checklist for evaluating anti-static carpet tile and rubber flooring.
Historically, resilient flooring installations required more time than carpet tile, and this was an issue that sometimes resulted in the shutdown of operations. Now, an advancement in installation technology has resulted in a new dry adhesive application.2 This odor-free product, which comes on a roll, precludes the need for mixing and waiting for glue to set or cure. It allows for immediate foot traffic upon flooring installation. In fact, rubber flooring can now be installed faster than carpet tile. In addition, rubber flooring isn't just installed over concrete; it can easily be laminated to access flooring panels in advance, before they arrive at the job site or field-installed at the site by an access flooring professional.
Staticworx® Eclipse EC and SD Rubber has been recognized by MIT Lincoln Laboratories for having the best-available static-control properties.
Typically, carpet tiles need to be replaced every five to six years (or sooner), as the carpet gets beat up over time. The premature need for new carpet usually results in the use of lift systems to move equipment, as well as costly and disruptive shutdown of operations. In contrast, staticcontrol rubber flooring is much more durable; in most circumstances, the only reason for replacing a rubber floor is the desire for a new color.
9-1-1 centers are subject to daily traffic from public safety officials who may track in sand, mud, snow and salt from outside. This takes its toll as carpet tends to accumulate dirt and grime and is prone to stains. Maintenance typically requires invasive steam cleaning about two times a year as well as daily vacuuming. This activity and related noise adds to workplace stress and distractions. In contrast, EC rubber flooring will not stain and is much easier to maintain, requiring just a damp mop for cleanup. Rubber maintains its high slip resistance whether wet or dry.
Carpet tufts collect and trap residues of material dropped or spilled on them. When chairs are rolled over carpet, contaminants are ground deep inside. The only way to thoroughly eliminate nasty odors and contamination is through wet steam or "dry encapsulation" cleaning. In contrast, EC rubber flooring is non-porous and smooth, so there is no way for contaminants to become trapped in the first place.
When carpet tile is installed in operations using chairs with roller castors, vinyl chair mats are usually placed under the chairs to facilitate easy rolling. Since vinyl chair mats aren't anti-static, the potential for static discharge incidents is much greater. The results can be dropped calls, damaged headsets and other equipment failure that necessitates onsite technical servicing, equipment returns for repairs or product replacement. Static-control rubber flooring eliminates the mat problem because chairs easily roll back and forth over rubber.
Carpet has always found its way into any workspace requiring noise attenuation. Compared with hard resilient flooring surfaces like vinyl or access floors laminated with high pressure laminates, carpet provides significant noise reduction properties. However, rubber flooring also attenuates noise—usually 6 to 20 decibels, depending on other environmental factors. Maintenance attributes like quiet damp mopping versus noisy vacuuming and steam cleaning make rubber a more ergonomically desirable option than any textile-based flooring material.
Cost and Value
While carpet tile may be a little less expensive to install on the front end, the total cost of ownership is greater than it is for rubber flooring when maintenance and replacement costs are considered. Overall, rubber flooring has much greater long-term value. The difference in value is further magnified when you consider that the shutdown costs for installing new flooring in a communications center can cost anywhere from $30K to $100K, depending on the length of shutdown and the size of the facility.
Both rubber and carpet have good sustainability stories, available in earth friendly materials and in some cases contributing toward LEED credits. Eclipse EC rubber is the ideal green product for a crowded work space, as it is free of halogens, PVC, lead, phthalates and asbestos. Rubber is also GREENGUARD certified for indoor air quality involving children and schools.
How can you ensure that your floor meets electrical safety specifications after installation? Ask for a free flooring audit and see if you qualify for a GroundSafe™ certificate of compliance.
It's clear that emergency personnel need to be "well-grounded" and focused on day-to-day and minute-to-minute aspects of their job. Any unwanted noise or other distractions can lead to confused communication, lost calls ... and lives may be hanging in the balance.