I've read a previous thread here on antistatic precautions though it didn't fully answer my question, so, here goes...
In September we're doing AS Level Applied ICT at Key Stage 4 for those students who did well at GCSE ICT in Year 9 last year. Though it's only expected that the single award will be completed within the 2 years, the teacher is keen to do an additional module from the double award which is building PC's, mainly as we think that the students will enjoy it and will probably get more from it than sitting looking at pictures of hardware in a textbook. Since I'm the IT Technician/Curriculum Support Assistant for ICT that suits me down to the ground, which - on an unfortunate and entirely unintended pun - leads me to my next question: Antistatic.
Personally, I'm happy to leave the case plugged into the wall albeit switched off and touch the bare metal of the case now and again. However, we're not sure - and seemingly nobody else is - what we can do in terms of letting students do. My original intention was to buy antistatic mats and wristbands with crocodile clips, using the case chassis (plugged in but switched off at the main) as an earthing point as this is relatively inexpensive and will more than do the job, even with clumsy hands grasping RAM like some sort of light sabre...
Are we alright to let kids work on machines that are plugged in or are we better off buying the plugs for antistatic kit with just an earth pin and leaving the cases unplugged entirely?
I'm pretty confident the former is safe enough though naturally I'd just be happier if I'd heard what one or two other schools did, especially if there's any sort of legal/health and safety issues involved. I guess we could get all their parents to sign a disclaimer...
Thanks for the reply - The machines will of course be switched off at the wall - it was whether or not we are allowed to leave them plugged in for earthing purposes or not that we're not sure about. As I said, my initial idea was to get mats and wriststraps with crocodile clips and use the bare metal chassis since they should learn how to do it "properly" anyway, I was just seeing if we could avoid buying the plugs with earthing points on them or not seeing as they just about double the cost of the kit per student!
The best answer is the proper tools, as always. They incorporate a 1M resistor in the earth connection to give protection in the event of (an unlikely) fault elsewhere.
In practical terms, if you are working on a PC away from your anti-static kit, plugged in and switched off is next best. The chassis will then dissipate any accumulated charge from your plastic soled shoes, and that nasty nylon carpet.
Thanks for the link - I think we're going to go with the kit from Rapid Electronics which is almost identical apart from the lack of a plug and carry pouch. I believe they were about £25 for a mat, wriststrap and cables and another £5 or so for an Earth Bonding Plug which is cheaper than elsewhere so we're talking about £30 a student which isn't all that bad.
We'll only be doing this in groups of three so one kit each plus one for the demonstrator (since I suppose I'd best appear to be doing things by the book as well!) comes to around £120 and I think that even qualifies for free delivery.
Not bad at all - Thanks very much for everyone's help, that's another job ticked off the list for the summer.
abit off topic who actually uses an anti-static strap and mat at work?
Depends. One off memory swap type job, then just touching the case. If I was doing a lot of work on static sensitive stuff or on something odd (like the theatre lighting desk last week) then yes, I do get the kit out.