What Causes Static Electricity?

Static electricity can be a nuisance and even dangerous — especially in the workplace. You most likely know static electricity as that small shock you sometimes get when you touch an object or when your hair stands on end.

While we are all familiar with static electricity, many never question what static electricity is or what makes it happen — or its dangers. 


what causes static electricity                                                                Image by Hebi B. from Pixabay

We’re all aware of static electricity. Even hundreds of years ago before the science was well-known, people wrote about this odd phenomenon. So, what causes static electricity?

Protons and electrons carry an electrical charge. Protons have a charge of +1 electron unit, whereas protons have -1 electron unit. When we talk about an electrical charge, we are talking about the flow of protons and electrons.

Static electricity is the imbalance between negative and positive electrical charges in objects and is usually caused when solid objects come into contact. When these objects rub together, one is collecting electrons to become negative and the other is losing electrons to become positive. This action creates the charge imbalance of electrons when the two objects are separated.

Put simply; a static electric shock happens when an object with an excess of negative electrons comes in contact with another object with a less negative charge. The object with the surplus of negative electrons — if strong enough — will make the electrons of the other object jump. Electrons flow from where they have built up — for example, on a human who then touches their mobile phone. This activity creates the infamous small and annoying shock.

This transfer of electrons happens all the time. When we rub our feet across the carpet, remove our gloves or pull at a blanket. This causes the spark of static electricity. If you are in an extremely cold place with low humidity and rub a blanket across your duvet in the dark, you can literally see the electrical sparks fly.

While static electricity may not cause us serious issues at home, it is a serious problem in the manufacturing and processing industries where friction and separation frequently happen, causing some objects to build up a large static charge. This buildup could cause a significant shock to any person who then touches a metal object.


Dangers of Static Charge Build Up

The most obvious risk is an electric shock to a person. While this may not be enough to be fatal, it can seriously stun the victim, leading to a number of dangerous situations, including falling, bumping into others or getting trapped in machinery. 

It isn’t just people who are at risk of large shocks. A sudden high-voltage discharge could also ignite flammable substances, opening up the risk of a fire. If a workplace uses pipes with flammable fluids flowing through them, such as gasoline, this could be extremely dangerous if static is allowed to build-up. A small spark could cause a fire or explosion in an instant.

Damage to electrical goods is also a huge issue — especially in workplaces depending on electrical machinery to maintain production. Electrical components can be damaged and rendered useless from even a small shock.

The dangers of static electricity in our workplaces is often not discussed or focused on enough. As our manufacturing and processing methods continue to develop, the importance of static removal in the workplace is becoming more recognised for the safety of workers.


How to Eliminate the Dangers of Static Electricity

There are now many options for workplaces wanting to prevent or eliminate the danger of static electricity. Modern specialised static removal and cleaning equipment can help such workplaces to eradicate the danger efficiently and effectively.

eStat Solutions has extensive knowledge of a broad range of manufacturing processes and so can offer the most appropriate solutions. We have a comprehensive range of static solutions including ATEX products, ionising anti static air guns, nozzles, Simco-Ion IQ Platform, web cleaning, ESD products, static meters and measurement equipment, anti-static ionising bars, power units, perforation detection and static charging equipment.


Contact us today on 01952 31 31 42 or email us at [email protected] for professional advice and help with your static electricity issues.