Fundamentals of Electrostatic Discharge, Part 4

Part 4: Training and Auditing

ESD Association, Rome NY

Your static control program is up and running. How to you determine whether it is effective? How do you make sure your employees follow it? In Part Three, we suggested that there were at least nine critical elements to successfully developing and implementing an effective ESD control program. In Part Four, we will focus on two more of these elements: training and auditing.

Personnel Training

The procedures are in place. The materials are in use. But, your ESD control program just does not seem to yield the expected results. Failures declined initially, but they have begun reversing direction. Or perhaps there was little improvement at all. The solutions might not be apparent in inspection reports or incoming ESD materials. Nor in the wrist strap log in sheets. In large companies or small, it is hard to underestimate the role of training in an ESD program. The new ANSI/ESD S20.20 ESD Control Program standard cites training as a basic administrative requirement of an ESD control program. There is significant evidence to support the contribution of training to the success of the program. We would not send employees to the factory floor without the proper soldering skill or the knowledge to operate the automated insertion equipment. We should provide them with the same skill level regarding ESD control procedures.

Elements of Effective Training Programs

Although individual requirements cause training programs to vary from company to company, there are several  common threads that run through the successful programs.

1: Successful Training Programs Cover All Affected Employees

Obviously we train the line employees who test their wrist straps or place finished products in static protective packaging. But we also include department heads, upper management, and executive personnel in the process. Typically they are responsible for the day-to-day supervision and administration of the program or they provide leadership and support. Even subcontractors and suppliers should be considered for inclusion in the training program.

Because ESD control programs cover such a variety of job disciplines and educational levels, it may be necessary to develop special training modules of each organizational entity. For example, the modules developed for management, engineering, technicians, and field service could differ significantly because their day-to-day concerns and responsibilities are much different.

2: Effective Training is Comprehensive and Consistent

Training not only covers specific procedures, but also the physics of the problem and the benefits of the program as well. Consistent content across various groups, plants, and even countries (adjusted for cultural differences, of course) reduces confusion and helps assure conformance. The training content should include topics such as the fundamentals of ESD, the details of the organization’s ESD Control Program plan, and each person’s role in the plan.

3: Use a Variety of Training Tools and Techniques

Choose the methods that will work best for your organization. Combine live instruction with training videos or interactive CD-ROM programs. You may have in-house instructors available, or you may need to go outside the company to find instructors of training materials You can also integrate industry symposia, tutorials, and workshops into your program.

Effective training involves employees in the process. Reinforce the message with demonstrations of ESD events and their impact. Bulletin boards, newsletters, and posters provide additional reminders and reinforcement.

Maintaining a central repository for educational ESD control materials will help your employees keep current or answer questions that may occur outside the formal training sessions. Materials in such a repository might include:

  • Material from initial and recurring training sessions
  • ESD bulletins or newsletters
  • Videos or CDs
  • Computer based training materials
  • Technical papers, studies, standards and specifications
  • ESD Control materials and equipment product sheets

In addition, a knowledgeable person in the organization should be available to answer trainee questions once they have begun working.

4: Test, Certify, and Retrain

Your training should assure material retention and emphasize the importance of the effort. If properly implemented, testing and certification motivates and builds employee pride. Retraining or refresher training is an ongoing precess that reinforces, reminds, and provides opportunities for implementing new or improved procedures. Establish a system to highlight when employees are dure for retraining, retesting, or re-certification.

5: Feedback, Auditing, and Measurement

Motivate and provide the mechanism for program improvement. Sharing field or productivity data with employees demonstrates the effectiveness of the program and of their efforts. Tracking these same numbers can indicate that it’s time for retraining or whether modifications are required in the training program.

Design and delivery of an effective ESD training program can be just as important as the procedures and materials used in your ESD control program. A training program that is built on identifiable and measurable performance goals helps assure employee understanding, implementation and success.


Developing and implementing an ESD control program itself is obvious. What might not be so obvious is the need to continually review, audit, analyze, feedback and improve. You will be asked to continually identify the program’s return on investment and to justify the savings realized. Technological changes will dictate improvements and modifications. Feedback to employees and top management is essential. Management commitment will need reinforcement.

Like training, regular auditing becomes a key factor in the successful management of ESD control programs. The mere presence of the auditing process spurs compliance with program procedures. It helps strengthen managements’ commitment. Audit reports trigger corrective action and help foster continuous improvement.

The benefits to be gained form regular auditing of our ESD control procedures are numerous.

  • They allow us to prevent problems before they occur rather than always fighting fires.
  • They allow us to readily identify problems and take corrective action.
  • They identify areas in which our programs may be weak and provides us with information required for continuous improvement.
  • They allow us to leverage limited resources effectively.
  • They help us determine when our employees need to be retrained.
  • They help us improve yields, productivity, and capacity.
  • They help us bind our ESD programs together into a successful effort.

An ESD audit measures performance to the defined standards and procedures of the ESD Control Program. Typically, we think of an ESD audit as a periodic review and inspection of the ESD work area covering the use of the correct packing materials, wearing of wrist straps, following defined procedures, and similar items. Auditing can range from informal surveys of the processes and facilities to the more formal third-party audits for ISO 9000 or ANSI/ESD S20.20 certification.

Requirements for Effective Auditing

Regardless of the structure, effective ESD auditing revolves around several factors. First, auditing implies the existence of written and well-defined standards and procedures. It is difficult to measure performance if you do not have anything to measure against. Yet, you quite frequently hear an auditor ask, “Some people say you should measure less than 500 volts in an ESD protected area, but others say you should measure less than 100 volts. What’s acceptable when I audit the factory floor?” Obviously, this question indicates a lack of standards and the audit will be relatively ineffective.

Second, most audits require the taking of some measurements–  typically resistance and the presence of charge or fields. Therefore, you will need specific instrumentation to conduct work area audits. As a minimum, you will need an electrostatic field meter, a wide range resistance meter, a ground/circuit tester, and appropriate electrodes and accessories. Although this equipment must be accurate, it need not be as sophisticated as laboratory instruments. The audit is intended to verify basic functions and not as a full qualification of ESD control equipment or materials. You want the right tool for the job. Remember, many of the instruments you might choose for auditing are good indicators, but not suitable for precise evaluation of materials. Be sure that you can correlate the values obtained with those in the laboratory.

Third, our audits need to include all areas in which ESD control is requiredto protect electrostatic discharge sensitive devices. Typically these areas would include receiving, inspection, stores and warehouses, assembly, test and inspection, research and development, packaging, field service repair, offices and labratories, and clean rooms. Similarly, we need to audit all of the various processes, materials, and procedures that are used in our ESD control programs- personnel, equipment, wrist straps, floors, clothing, worksurfaces, training, and grounding.

Fourth, we need to audit frequently and regularly. The actual frequency of audits depends upon your facility and the ESD problems that you have. Following initial audit, some experts recommend auditing each department once a month if possible and probably a minimum of six times per year. If this seems like a high frequency level, remember that these regular audits are based upon a sampling or work areas in each department, not necessarily every workstation. Once you have gotten your program underway, your frequency of audit will be based on your experience. If your audits regularly show acceptable levels of conformance and performance, you can reduce the frequency of auditing. If, on the other hand your audits regularly uncover continuing problems, you may need to increase the frequency.

Fifth, upon completion of the audit, it is essential to implement corrective actionif deficiencies are discovered. Trends need to be tracked and analyzed to help establish corrective action, which may include retraining of personnel, revision of requirement documents or processes, or modification of the existing facility.

Types of Audits

There are several types of ESD audits: program management audits, quality process checking, and work placeaudits. Each type is distinctively different and each is vitally importantly to the success of the ESD program.

Program managementaudits measure how well a program is managed and how strong management commitment is. The program management audit emphasizes factors such as the existence of an effective implementation plan, realistic program requirements, ESD training programs, regular audits, and other critical factors of program management. The program management audit typically is conducted by a survey specifically tailored to the factors being reviewed. Because it’s a survey, the audit can be conducted without actually visiting the site. The results of this audit indirectly measure work place compliance and are particularly effective as a means of self-assessment for small companies as well as large global corporations.

Quality processchecking applies classical statistical quality control procedures to the ESD process and is performed by operations personnel. This is not a periodic audit, but rather daily maintenance of the program. Visual and electrical checks of the procedures and materials, wrist strap testing for example, are used to monitor the quality of the ESD control process. Checking is done on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

Trend charts and detailed records trigger process adjustments and corrective action. They help assure that specified procedures are followed on a regular basis. The records are essential of quality control purposes, corrective action and compliance with ISO-9000.

Work placeaudits verify that program procedures are followed and that ESD control materials and equipment are within specification or are functioning properly. Audits are performed on a regular basis, often monthly, and utilize sampling techniques and statistical analysis of the results. The use of detailed checklists and a single auditor assures that all items are covered and that the audits are performed consistently over time.

Basic Auditing Instrumentation

Special instrumentation will be required to conduct work area audits. The specific instrumentation will depend on what you are trying to measure, the precision you require and the sophistication of your static control and material evaluation program. However, as a minimum, you will need an electrostatic field meter, a wide range resistance meter, a ground/circuit tester, and appropriate electrodes and accessories. Additional instrumentation might include a charge plate monitor, footwear and wrist strap testers, chart recorders and timing devices, discharge simulators, and ESD events detectors.

Although this equipment must be accurate, it need not be as sophisticated as laboratory instruments. The audit is intended to verify basic functions and not as a full qualification of ESD control equipment or materials. Remember, you want the right tool for the job. Just as you would not buy a hammer if you were planning to saw wood, you would not purchase an electrometer to measure static voltages on a production line. If you are making measurements according to specific standards, be sure the instrumentation meets the specifications of these standards.

With a hand held electrostatic field meter, you can measure the presence of electrostatic charge in your environment allowing you to identify problem areas and monitor your ESD control program. These instruments measure the electrostatic field associated with a charged object. Many field meters simply measure the gross level of the electrostatic field and should be used as general indicators of the presence of a charge and the approximate level of this charge. Others will provide more precise measurement for material evaluation and comparison.

For greater precision in facility measurements of for laboratory evaluation, a charge plate monitorcan be attached to some field meters or connected to a voltmeter in the laboratory. With these additional tools you can evaluate the performance of flooring materials or balance ionizing equipment, for example.

Because resistance is one of the key factors in evaluating ESD control materials, a wide range resistance meter becomes a crucial instrument. Most resistance measurements are made at 100 volt, and some at 10 volts. The equipment you choose should be capable of measuring resistance ranges of 10^5 to 10^11 ohms. With the proper electrodes and cables, you will be able to measure the resistance of flooring materials, worksurfaces, equipment, furniture, garments, and some packaging materials.

The final instrument is a ground/circuit tester. With this device you can measure the continuity of your ESD grounds and also check the impedance as well as neutral to ground shorts.

Areas, Processes, and Materials to be Audited

In our last column we stated that ESD protection was required “wherever ESDS devices are handled”. Obviously, our audits need to include these same areas. Table 1 indicates some of the physical areas that require ESD protection and auditing of the program.


Similarly, we need to conduct work area and program management audits of all the various processes, materials, and procedures that are used in our ESD control programs. Some of these are shown in table 2.


Check Lists

Check lists can be helpful tools for conducting work place and program audits. However, it is important that ESD control program requirements are well documented and accessible to avoid a tendency for check lists becoming de facto lists of requirements. Table 3 indicates the type of questions and information that might be included in an auditing check list. Your own check lists, of course, will be based on your specific needs and program requirements. They should conform to your actual ESD control procedures and specifications and they should be consistent with any ISO 9000 requirements you may have.

In addition to check lists, you will use various forms for recording the measurements you make: resistance, voltage generation, ect. Part of your audit will also include the daily logs on the factory floor such as those used for wrist strap checking.


Reporting and Corrective Action

Upon completion of the auditing process, Reports should be prepared and distributed in a timely manner. Details of the audits need to be fully documented for ISO-9000 or ANSI/ESD S20.20 certification. As with all audits, it is essential to implement corrective action if deficiencies are discovered. Trends need to be tracked and analyzed to help establish corrective action, which may include retraining of personnel, revision of requirement documents or processes, or modification of the existing facility.


Auditing and training are the key elements in maintaining an effective ESD control program. They help assure that procedures are properly implemented and can provide a management tool to gauge program effectiveness and make continuous improvement.


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