Understanding OSHA’s Battery Room Ventilation Requirements for Optimal Workplace Safety
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)’s regulations for forklift battery charging and maintenance outline strict requirements that each battery room be equipped with adequate ventilation “to ensure diffusion of the gases from the battery and to prevent the accumulation of an explosive mixture.”
Every lead-acid motive-power forklift battery will produce hydrogen gas and other fumes once it reaches the 80% charge point. Hydrogen gas is a known asphyxiant, and can be fatal in high enough doses.
In addition, hydrogen gas can form explosive and flammable mixtures with air if concentrations reach 4% or higher. Hydrogen gas is both odorless and colorless, making it even more hazardous because of its undetectable nature. And because it is lighter than air, it can rise to the top of the warehouse structure and accumulate if no ventilation is present.
So how can you make sure your battery room is kept safe from the dangers of hydrogen gas? Here are a few things to always remember:
- A hydrogen gas detector should be present and able to detect hydrogen gas concentration in the air of at least 1% by volume (10,000 ppm).
- Prevent sparks, flames and electrical arcs in the battery charging room to minimize danger, and post no smoking signs.
- Never handle a lift truck battery if the battery room’s ventilation system is damaged or isn’t operating properly.
- All battery rooms should keep batteries safe from falling items and dirt. Both can damage the forklift batteries and compromise the safety of personnel.
- The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has created a formula to help calculate the amount of time it will take to completely ventilate the air within a battery room. It’s imperative to use this formula to help understand how much ventilation your battery room will need.
When these precautions and preventive measures are taken, the battery room, as well as all personnel, can be kept safe from the highly hazardous nature of hydrogen gas.