Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) Explained for Wired Headsets

ESD is a normal occurrence when electrical charge builds up on a surface and then discharges to another material. The most common example of ESD is when a person walks on a carpeted surface and then touches a doorknob. Electrical charge builds up on the person’s body as they walk around, and then discharges to the doorknob creating a noticeable spark. ESD generation is heavily impacted by environmental factors such as humidity and by different types of materials interacting in the event.

  • Humidity level is a significant factor in ESD generation. Dry environments, which are typical of winter seasons, often have higher rates of ESD events. This is because lower humidity prevents dissipation of charge to the environment and increases the likelihood of charge buildup that would cause an ESD event.
  • Materials such as human skin, hair and clothing have different properties than materials such as glass, rubber, and plastic. These properties impact how easy it is to generate a charge for an ESD event to occur.
  • Retail and industrial environments have many opportunities for ESD events to occur. Headset and cabling rubbing against clothing can generate ESD buildup due to the interaction of the different materials. When combined with dry conditions of work areas, there is a possibility of charge buildup, which can dissipate between the user and the headset in the form of ESD.  
  • Other ESD considerations for working environments include conveyors, handling carts, and fork trucks. These devices can develop electrostatic buildup when in use.
  • Clothing and shoes worn by users as well as handling of plastic wraps, polystyrene foam, or other packing materials are known contributors to electrostatic charge buildup. Unwrapping plastic wrapped store goods from pallets or other containers frequently result in ESD events. Clothing materials such as polyester are also known to be more prone to charge buildup relative to cotton or wool clothing as the headset is moving against these surfaces.
  • To reduce the likelihood of ESD events, relative movement between the headset and other surfaces should be minimized. Use of a stationary mount for the terminal, such as a hip mount or in a pocket, is recommended for end-users. The cabling for the headset is best kept stationary by using the provided clips.