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I work an 8am-5pm job in a server room partition, separated by closed glass from the actual room where the server racks are mounted, from where the continual buzz sound of running servers, approximately 12 -15 of various sizes (mostly mini computers or small business servers, no main frames), is audible all shift long.

Recently, my co workers have been complaining about the static charge i discharge onto them when i greet or exchange pleasantries physically with them, mostly as soon as i leave the room for up to something like 5 minutes.

It doesn't always happen when i have touched any of the servers, sometimes its just being in the presence of the room i work in that gets me charged up.

Where i sit, the temperature ranges from 18 to 30 degrees Celcius, depending on whether i have my air conditioner on.

There are two issues that now make me think of their harm:

1. The buzz sound

&

2. The static electricity

Can this be cancerous? And are there any ways this can harm me if i continually manage servers in such an environment?

What best practices can i take to ensure the safety of both the servers and myself?

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    Static electricity is not a danger to you, but it is a danger to the servers! – Michael Hampton Oct 12 '15 at 12:18
  • As a health nut, I do believe that there's something to static electricity and/or the electromagnetic waves coming from electronic equipment. Most people would call those people who believe theories like that a "quack" ... I'm a cancer survivor though, and have done a ton of research on health, healthy living, and conventional medicine vs. alternative approaches to medicine. I don't understand German, but I had one of these for a while: amazon.de/… That might help get you started in the right direction... – David W Oct 12 '15 at 13:03
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Static electricity has not been known to cause cancer. I've read a some articles that summarized studies claiming static electricity led to increased cancer risks, but they also prefaced the research by studying people who sleep right next to a meterboards, junction boxes, substations or power lines with 400,000V. Note: most of these articles reference studies done in the 60's and 70's, during a time when one computer was the size of your server room, and using vacuum tubes. If you're really paranoid about it, schedule a sleep test with a local sleep clinic; exposure to high levels of static electricity over long periods of time have been suggested to mess with internal bio-rhtymics/bio-electricity. Have them monitor your sleep patterns; if you're wavering between insomnia and restlessness, you may have a valid concern or you may have a medical issue you need addressed.

So, unless you have 400,000V emanating from your server room, you're at no greater risk for cancer than when you're taking a trip in a plane or spending a day at the beach.

As for static electricity; it could be that your server room is generating the static electricity, or it could be that you're as dry as sand paper and should consider using lotion more often. If it really bothers you, convince your boss to remove the carpeting from your office or get a humidifier. Note, your server room should be mostly dry; running between 45-50% humidity. Anything less than 30% puts your server room at high risk for static discharge issues. Anything more than 70% puts your server room at risk for indoor rain.

If you're really concerned about it, get an electrician in there to check stuff out. They'll tell you whether or not your server room is safe.

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I don't work in datacenters much, maybe a day per month max and that hasn't changed for about 15-20 years when I did spend say a day per week. But in 2012 I was diagnosed with breast cancer (all sorted now, painfully but sorted) and the medical staff asked me about my life and risk factors. We went into these for a while and I mentioned being constantly surrounded by computer, they said not to worry in any way about this but did freak out a bit when I told them about the number of flights I had taken in my life (and that some of them were at high altitude). So basically I wouldn't fret about it, but I would recommend everyone make a will and get life insurance ok :)

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Are all your racks earthed using suitable grade cable? They should be. I have worked with some racks before that were not grounded and every single time the hair on my arms touched the racks, I got a nice static shock.

Also, the server room floor should be anti-static tiles or similar, not carpet.

Have you also considered that the static build up on you could be due to your shoes rubbing on the floor/carpet?

Finally, the server environment should be humidity controlled. Too little humidity and static build up becomes a major problem. Simply blasting air conditioning will also have the effect of de-humidifying the air, in isolated server environments a relative level of humidity should always be maintained.

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