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Like many battery-operated devices, electric-powered forklifts offer power, functionality and productivity with zero emissions and little noise. But the batteries that power electric forklifts are much more powerful than those found in toys, flashlights, and consumer electronic devices.
The batteries that power electric forklifts are much more powerful than those found in toys, flashlights, and consumer electronic devices. As a result, they present serious hazards that must be addressed.
Dangers of Electric Forklifts
Most electric forklifts are powered by very large rechargeable lead-acid batteries. These are potentially dangerous power supplies that must be routinely charged.
The specified requirements for charging forklift batteries include:
- An area should be designated for the purpose of recharging forklift batteries.
- The forklift needs to be fully recharged before returning it to service.
- Carrying heavier loads can cause forklifts to lose their battery power faster.
Following proper battery charging protocols can not only keep workers and your physical plant safe but also prolong the life and operation of the electric forklift.
Battery Charging Area Requirements
You usually don’t need to build a separate building or designate a large portion of your workplace for battery charging. But there are certain requirements that need to be met in order to provide for the safe charging of forklift batteries.
First, there must be no smoking in the battery charging area. This is because there is the potential for ignition and explosion. No smoking signs must be posted and this rule must be strictly enforced.
There also needs to be adequate fire protection in the area. If an explosion or fire were to occur, workers need to be able to extinguish it quickly using fire extinguishers and other fire suppression equipment, such as dry chemical, CO2, or foam fire extinguishers.
The area also needs to have an available water supply. Water is required to flush and neutralize spilled electrolyte from the battery.
More Safety Requirements
There also should be an eyewash station set up that can provide a minimum of a 15-minute flow of fresh water. For larger operations, this eyewash station needs to include a plumbed drench shower and eyewash station combined.
A phone is also required so that workers can report any emergency. Interior areas of industrial buildings typically have spotty cell phone reception so a land line is usually recommended.
There also needs to be adequate ventilation. As a forklift battery recharges, there can be a buildup of hydrogen gas. So there needs to be somewhere for this gas to go so that it does not contaminate the workplace or cause injuries to workers.
Soda ash or other neutralization materials also should be available to workers recharging batteries.
Finally, there should be barriers or other means to protect the battery charging apparatus from being damaged by forklifts, trucks or other equipment.
Keeping your forklifts charged safely is not only a good idea, it’s also critical to the safety of your workers and the productivity and profitability of your business.