Minimizing the Dangers of Charging Forklift Batteries

(courtesy: Charles Green)

Electric forklifts are used in many different types of workplaces. They allow forklifts to run longer with reduced emissions, making them ideal for most indoor uses.

There are many different types of electric forklifts, ranging from powerful, high-lift trucks to small, motorized pallet carriers. But they all have one thing in common: They run on batteries that frequently need to be recharged.

Forklift Battery Safety

Commercial forklifts typically use lead-acid batteries that are powerful and durable. But they require routine charging. They also won’t last forever. Forklift batteries need to be replaced periodically.

Most businesses will designate an area for the purpose of battery charging. This is both for convenience and safety. One charging station can be used for multiple trucks. Plus, if the area is segregated from other work areas, the danger to other employees is minimized.

Dangers of Forklift Batteries

Recharging and changing forklift batteries is not without risk. Only workers trained in how to properly work with forklift batteries should be allowed access to charging stations. These workers also should be trained in emergency procedures, such as how to respond to an acid splash, how to use eyewash and shower facilities, and more.

Potential dangers in charging and changing forklift batteries include:

  • Weight — Forklift batteries are very heavy. Some weigh upwards of 2,000 pounds. Consequently, they pose a crushing hazard should they be dropped or if they tip over.
  • Chemicals — Forklift batteries contain sulfuric acid, a highly corrosive chemical. If it gets splashed on workers, it can cause serious chemical burns.
  • Gas — At the end of the charging process, some forklift batteries emit hydrogen, a highly explosive gas. This process is commonly known as “out gassing”.
  • Shock — Forklift batteries create an electric charge. So there is the risk of shock caused by electrical short circuits in some situations.

Follow the battery manufacturers recommendations at all times to ensure maximum safety.

Changing Forklift Batteries

While changing batteries, it’s important to have the right equipment. Forklift battery handling beams have a non-conductive method of lifting heavy batteries. They feature a non-slip hook that fits snugly into most battery lifting holes.

Electric hoists and manual ball trolleys allow for quick, precise lifting. They typically come in two- to three-ton capacities.

Battery handling beam forklift attachments can be used with another forklift to safely lift out a forklift battery. They slide easily onto forks and are specifically designed for forklift maintenance applications.

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