A+: Safety - MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) and ESD (Electronstatic Discharge)

What happens if a toddler decides to taste the ink in a printer cartridge? The Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) knows. Many consumable products such as cleaners and printer cartridges have an MSDS. In more and more cases today, this information is available from the manufacturer’s website on the Internet.
The MSDS can be used to
• Determine safe storage practice
• Determine treatment if the product is accidentally swallowed or contacts the skin
• Determine safe disposal methods
• Determine how to deal with spills, fire, and other hazards

Anyone who works with electronics, especially disassembled components, needs to be very concerned about ESD. ESD is the static electricity discharge that happens when two differently charged objects (such as your body and a computer component) come in contact with each other. ESD is an invisible killer of memory modules, interface cards, hard disks, and other computer components, because ESD buildup and discharge happens long before you actually notice it.

You might dread shaking hands with a new acquaintance in the winter because you’ll get a shock, but ESD discharges far below the 3,000V level that you can actually feel can still destroy chips. As little as 30V of ESD is enough to destroy the current generation of low-powered chips, and you can build up as much as 20,000V of ESD from walking across a carpeted room in the winter if you shuffle along.

ESD damage is “invisible” for another reason: It leaves in its wake equipment that has no visible damage but simply won’t work reliably.

ESD damage is a major cause of intermittent failures, which are the bane of computer technicians everywhere. An intermittent failure is the classic “it wasn’t working when I called you” kind of problem that “goes away” when you examine the system but recurs from time to time later. 

You can prevent ESD by taking proper precautions when you install or remove components, store and transport components and/or use computers & devices. 

Unequal electrical potential between you and the device on which you’re working is the major cause of ESD. When your body has a higher electric potential than the device or component with which you’re working, an ESD from your body to the device or component equalizes the potential—but at the cost of damage or destruction to the component.

Although the greatest danger of ESD occurs when you have the system open and are working with components, PC users can also cause ESD problems when working with closed systems.

One way to prevent ESD is to equalize the electric potential of your body and the components on which you’re working.

Specific items enable you to perform electrical testing on power entering the system (AC) and power levels inside the system (DC), prevent ESD damage to components, and prevent electrical shock caused by worn insulation on power cables, such as:

    • AC/DC multimeter with Ohm and Continuity options— Tests power inside the system and at wall outlets

    • Grounded AC circuit tester— Fast testing for wall outlets; many offices and homes are incorrectly wired, and the tester will help you determine whether this is the problem

    • Antistatic mat and wrist strap— Prevents ESD, which can damage parts and systems

    • Electrical tape— Temporarily repairs worn spots in the insulation of AC and DC power cables until replacements can be obtained

    • Battery tester— Helps determine the condition of batteries used in motherboards and other components



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