A grounding wrist strap is a device that helps discharge any electrical charge that has built up on a person. Such devices are commonly worn by those working on electronics, as even a small static-electric discharge can damage sensitive components. The grounding wrist strap is part of a larger family of precautionary devices known as electrostatic discharge (ESD) protection devices. It is also commonly called by other names, including antistatic wrist strap, ESD band, and anti-static wristband.
Grounding wrist straps are extremely simple devices. Most basic models have wristbands that are made of conductive fabric. These are worn around a person’s wrist, and connect to a small metal plate. The metal plate is connected to a long cord, which in turn is usually connected to a crocodile clip. The crocodile clip is then connected to a ground for the device to properly function. Any electrical charge that builds up on the person wearing the strap should discharge through the band, into the plate and cord, and then through the crocodile clip and into the ground.
Those working on computers and other electronic devices are often required to wear a grounding wrist strap. This is because static electricity can build up on a person as the folds of their clothing rub against each-other and items in the room, especially if the person is not wearing an antistatic garment. If the static electricity is not discharged through a harmless source like the grounding wrist strap, it can build up and then be released accidentally into objects the person comes into contact with.
Modern computer and electronic components are often designed to resist ESD, but this protection is not complete. RAM sticks, processors, motherboards, hard drives and graphics cards all have areas that, if exposed to an ESD, could be damaged significantly or disrupted.