Four Forklift Battery Dangers And What To Do About Them

Published: 16th August 2011
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Electric forklifts have a number of safety advantages over propane or gasoline powered models, but there are a few dangers workers will be exposed to. Preparation, education and the right battery handling equipment will keep your workers safe and happy.

Electrical

Batteries, of course, hold electricity and can deliver and painful and dangerous electrical shocks to careless workers. Someone being careful to avoid the terminals still might get a nasty surprise if a dangling bracelet or other metal object touches something it shouldn't. Even discharged power cells can hold enough juice to be dangerous.

Workers are kept safe when they use battery handling equipment such as lifters to remove the cells from the forklifts and transport them to a recharging station. Even when using this equipment, workers should avoid wearing metal jewelry and keep metal tools far away from the terminals.

Acid

Battery acid can cause serious burns to the skin, eyes and mucous membranes. Repeated exposure to acidic vapors leads to respiratory problems including permanent lung damage. Again, battery handling equipment keeps workers safely away from batteries during transport and minimizes the chance a cell should drop and crack open, splashing bystanders with acid. Employees opening battery caps should use appropriate PPE including safety glasses or a face shield.

Hydrogen Gas

During the charging process, batteries produce a small amount of hydrogen gas. In a poorly ventilated area the gas can build up to explosive proportions. The problem is increased if many batteries are being charged in a small space, or if a charger malfunctions and keeps charging even after a power cell is full.

Hydrogen gas is odorless and colorless and cannot normally be detected. In some cases workers report a rotten egg smell, which is actually the hydrogen mixing with the sulphur in the acid to make hydrogen sulfide. The latter can be toxic in large concentrations, but in this case can act as an early warning of a hydrogen gas buildup. To avoid gas buildup, charge batteries only in well-ventilated areas. Smoking, open flames and any equipment that produces electric arcs should all be prohibited in the charging area.

Weight

Forklift power cells are deceptively heavy. A worker looks at the cell and unconsciously expects a certain weight, and even an experienced maintenance employee can be surprised by just how heavy these lead batteries are. Battery handling equipment keeps workers from handling a weight that may be too much for them to handle.

Power cells can easily be removed, replaced and transported without workers having to strain their muscles. Lifters are easy to use, but every worker should receive formal training before handling the equipment. Batteries should be secured in the bed of the equipment before being transported to the recharging station.

The dangers above are not necessarily common, but they can lead to serious injury. Basic safety protocols and battery handling equipment should be part of any forklift fleet maintenance program.

Author writes about a variety of topics. If you would like to learn more about battery handling equipment, visit http://www.multi-shifter.com/.

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