Battery Room Safety Tips for Beginners

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By Jennifer Taylor February 27, 2017

Battery room safety is everyone’s business. Maybe you just got certified as a forklift operator, or maybe your facility just made the leap from gas to electric power. Either way, you'll need to understand a few things about your business' battery charging and changing area to ensure safe change-outs every time.

Here are some safety tips from industry veterans, including the experts at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. These are just a few of the things you can expect to cover in a good training session before you set foot in the forklift battery room:

    1. Design Features

    Start by ensuring that your battery room is designed for safety. It should have a full ventilation system, including hydrogen gas detectors, to compensate for battery gassing.

    All battery stands should be coated to withstand acid, and rollers should be spark-proof. Floors should be extremely flat and level concrete, with an acid- and impact-resistant coating.

    Finally, safety equipment — including eye wash stations, spill containment kits, and personal protective equipment — should be within easy reach and labeled clearly.

    2. Material Handling Equipment

    Weight alone is one of the forklift battery's greatest hazards. Luckily, there's an easy way to prevent strained muscles or, even worse, a crushing injury.

    Use specially designed battery handling equipment, like Battery Carts and Carriages from Solus Group. These heavy-duty machines are built to change forklift batteries as safely and efficiently as possible.

    3. Securing Batteries and Lift Trucks During Change-Out

    During the change-out, make sure both batteries and forklifts are completely secured until the moment of transfer. For lift trucks, that means applying the brake after pulling into the changing lane.

    Forklift batteries can be secured with a battery containment bar, a flip-up stop tab, or powered rollers. Keep batteries secured while battery handling equipment is in motion.

    4. Personal Protective Equipment

    Battery room staff should wear full protective clothing if there's any risk of contact with electrolyte. A few examples of activities that certainly require personal protective equipment include watering batteries, washing battery cases, and mixing electrolyte (remember to only pour acid into water, by the way, and never water into acid).

    According to OSHA, personal protective equipment for the battery room should include acid-resistant face shields, goggles, gloves, aprons, and boots.

    5. Ongoing Training

    Of course you'll need to have a formal training period before operating forklift battery handling equipment, just as you do before driving the lift truck itself. As with lift trucks, OSHA also requires periodic refresher training. Knowledgeable battery room staff have a lot of power to maintain a safe, injury-free workplace.

Forklift batteries aren't like any other energy source available. They provide dependable, emission-free power, plus crucial ballast for counterbalance forklifts. Electricity is also much cheaper than gas or liquid propane. But the lead-acid battery's suitability for the material handling industry comes at a cost.

Employees must learn to handle batteries safely — after all, dropping a 2,000-pound box of acid and lead is more than a minor inconvenience. The electrolyte that provides the electrochemical processes that keep forklifts in action shift after shift is dangerous stuff. It's largely comprised of sulfuric acid.

Then there's the gassing. At the end of a charge cycle, forklift batteries emit hydrogen and oxygen. Without adequate ventilation, these gasses can pool up into extremely dangerous pockets of explosive gas. A single spark could create a major disaster.

But when you know the hazards, you can prevent them. With the right training and high-quality equipment, employees of every experience level can contribute to an overall battery room safety plan. That’s as true for a seasoned veteran as it is for a beginner.

References:

Bodenburg, Noel and James Kaletta. “Lift trucks: Battery room safety tips.” MMH. Peerless Media LLC, 27 Oct. 2010. Web. 7 Jan. 2017.

Gooley, Toby. “Battery changing room ‘dos and don’ts.” DCVelocity. Agile Business Media, LLC., 13 July 2010. Web. 7 Jan. 2017.

Powered Industrial Trucks (Forklift) Types & Fundamentals: Electric.” OSHA. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, United States Department of Labor, n.d. Web. 7 Jan. 2017.

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