5 Safety Tips You Need to Know Before Charging Another Forklift Battery

150706-N-FI568-027 ARABIAN GULF (July 6, 2015) – Cpl. Tyler Durfey, from Waterford, Pa., tests a forklift battery in the hangar bay aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Theodore Roosevelt is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, strike operations in Iraq and Syria as directed, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 3rd Class Taylor L. Jackson/Released)

Photo via Wikimedia Commons (in the public domain)

Forklift batteries are powerful and dangerous and they shouldn’t be handled carelessly. Unfortunately, too many businesses don’t take the time to properly train or supervise their forklift operators or others whose responsibilities include recharging and maintaining batteries.

The result can be damaged batteries and forklifts, injuries to employees, and loss of both productivity and the business’s reputation.

Still, the large lead-acid batteries used on forklifts must be routinely recharged and changed otherwise the vehicles will run out of power and be useless.

Here are five forklift battery recharging safety tips your employees need to know before they ever work with another forklift battery.

Forklifts Must Be Properly Secured

Before changing or recharging forklift batteries, it is essential that workers make sure the forklift is in park, the brakes are applied, and that the vehicle is on a flat surface rather than an incline.

Forklift batteries are very heavy and pose a dropping hazard. Some can weigh upwards of 2,000 pounds or more. Dealing with a heavy battery and an unstable forklift simultaneously is a recipe for disaster.

Designate an Area for Battery Changing and Charging

Changing or recharging a battery is potentially dangerous. Lead-acid batteries contain sulfuric acid which is highly corrosive and can cause severe injuries if splashed on workers during servicing or changing batteries.

Near the end of the charging process, some batteries can give off a highly explosive hydrogen gas. This “out gassing” should occur only in an area with proper ventilation for dispersal of fumes from gassing batteries.

Always Have  Safety Equipment Nearby

Contact with battery cells can cause electrical short circuits, burns to the skin and eyes, and other potential hazards.

Facilities should be provided for flushing and neutralizing spilled electrolyte, such as eyewash stations. There also needs to be fire protection, including fire extinguishers rated for use with forklift batteries.

Know the Proper Procedures

Training and supervising employees responsible for recharging or changing forklift batteries are essential. Workers need to know and understand the dangers associated with working with forklift batteries.

For example, when charging batteries, you always want to pour acid into water and never pour water in acid. Care also needs to be taken to assure that vent caps are functioning and that the battery or battery compartment covers need to be left open to dissipate heat.

Smoking should never be allowed in or near the charging area. Open flames, sparks, and electric arcs also need to be eliminated near workers recharging or changing batteries.

Forklift batteries are serious business. Make sure your business takes them seriously.

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