There seems to be a lot of mystery surrounding ESD shoes. People are not always sure what the difference is between ESD and EH rated safety shoes. In this article we’re going to unpack the details.
What are ESD shoes and when do you need to wear them? How are ESD safety shoes made? Is there a difference between ESD and EH shoes? These are the questions I’ll be answering and more.
What Are ESD Shoes?
Electrostatic discharge (ESD) shoes have an incredibly low electrical resistance, between 0.1 and 100 megaohms (MΩ). This means that they prevent static electricity from building up in the human body.
Because ESD shoes and boots have such a low resistance, they are the only type of footwear guaranteed to prevent electricity from flowing when you make contact with electrically charged objects.
Who Needs to Wear ESD Shoes?
If you’ve ever felt that nasty surprise shock when touching something, you’ll appreciate the protection offered by ESD shoes. They protect you from the static electricity causing the shock, which usually happens when the air is very dry and will be even more prevalent when walking on highly static material, like synthetic carpets.
However, ESD shoes have a more critical role to play in certain types of industries. If you work with volatile substances like gas, flammable chemicals, or anything that could ignite when there is a spark, you will need to wear ESD shoes. They are essential safety equipment for anyone working in an industry that utilizes flammable liquids and gasses.
The discharge from contact with electrically charged objects can also harm sensitive electronic equipment. This makes ESD shoes a necessity in many industries that either manufacture or utilize electronic components that can be damaged by the voltage that is generated by static electricity, which can be extremely high.
The charge produced by static electricity can also interfere with the functioning of some equipment. This is of particular importance when operating finely calibrated measuring equipment, like those used in laboratories. This would also apply to many types of aviation and medical equipment.
These are some of the industries that would require ESD shoes to be worn:
ESD vs EH Safety Shoes
Understandably, many people are confused about the difference between ESD and EH shoes. There is a difference, and this should be clearly understood, especially if you work in an industry that specifies the use of either type of shoe.
EH shoes, also known as anti-static shoes, prevent static electricity. This seems to be exactly the same ESD shoes, which is obviously why it’s easy to become confused.
So, what’s the difference between ESD and EH shoes?
There is difference in the resistance of the two types of safety shoes. ESD shoes are rated for a much lower resistance (0.1 – 100 MΩ). Whereas EH shoes are rated at 0.1 – 1,000 MΩ. This means that ESD shoes offer ten times higher protection against a static discharge.
While antistatic (EH) shoes provide a good level of protection against a nasty static electric shock, ESD shoes are the only safety shoes that guarantee no electric flow between the human body and charged objects. This can be essential in many working environments.
How Do You Know if Your Shoes are ESD-Rated?
Given the confusion that already exists between EH and ESD shoes, you may accidently end up buying the wrong shoes for your required safety standards. Even sales assistants in some stores selling these shoes don’t always know the difference.
The only way to know if your shoes meet the safety requirements of a particular type of industry that you work in is to check the safety ratings.
Essentially, the two different ratings for anti-static and ESD shoes is about the electrical resistance offered by the shoe.
How are ESD Shoes Made?
ESD shoes are made from non-conductive materials, like plastics, leather, or rubber. However, leather is not reliable because of its tendency to accumulate moisture.
ESD shoes usually have a PU or PVC layer in the sole of the shoe to guarantee that no electric charge can pass from the human body and a charge object. Additional insulation may also be used in the upper part of the shoe.
Typical Features of ESD Safety Shoes
While the main purpose of ESD shoes is to prevent even the smallest amount of electricity to flow between the wearer and a charged object, there are often additional safety features that can be useful in certain working environments. Other features may be purely to make the shoe more comfortable, which obviously has its advantages.
These are a few of the features you may want to look for when buying ESD shoes:
There are many ways to prevent static electricity by insulating your footwear, like anti-static bands, buckles, and straps. EH, or anti-static shoes also do a fairly good job of preventing an electric shock caused by static energy. None of these solutions are as effective as ESD shoes.
If you work in an environment where protection from static electricity is essential, possibly even a matter of life and death, you will need to invest in a quality pair of ESD shoes. They are quite expensive, certainly more costly than more basic forms of static protection footwear.
In the end, ESD shoes are the only type of safety gear for your feet that guarantee 100% protection from static electric discharge. By offering the lowest electrical resistance, these safety shoes are at the pinnacle of safety standards when it comes to the dangers presented by static discharge.