Forklift Battery Safety

While most forklift safety talks center around tipovers, forklift batteries present serious hazards, too. Our Safety Training Tips editor says forklift drivers and others who work around forklifts and on forklift maintenance need to know the hazards and how to protect themselves with proper precautions.

Make sure workers know the hazards of forklift batteries. Hazards come in four general areas:

  1. Battery Acid—The solution in a battery is called an electrolyte, and it is corrosive. It will eat holes in your clothing, etch the concrete floor of your workplace, and damage your skin or eyes.
  2. Hydrogen Gas—Batteries give off this flammable gas and if it is allowed to accumulate in a small or confined area, it is readily ignitable and can result in an explosion.
  3. Electrical Shock—Most people have connected “jumper cables” to their car battery and have probably seen the sparks that jump from the battery lead to the cable when the cable is connected to the battery.
  4. Heavy Batteries—Attempting to handle a battery without proper material handling equipment can result in a severe muscle strain.

Be sure to discuss any other battery-related hazards in your workplace.

You need safety policies, but you don’t have to write them. We’ve already written them for you in BLR’s Essential Safety Policies program. Examine it at no cost or risk.

Emphasize the importance of using personal protective equipment (PPE) whenever workers are cleaning a battery, checking the electrolyte, removing a vent cap, cleaning up electrolyte, or adding water to a cell. Here are PPE basics for working with forklift batteries:

  • Wear goggles designed for working with acid liquid because the electrolyte may bubble up or spray up at any time.
  • Wear a face shield to protect your face from the electrolyte.
  • Wear rubber gloves, which will resist the acid of the electrolyte and will protect your hands. They also provide a little bit of electrical resistance.
  • Wear a rubber apron to protect your clothing and body from the acid.

Make sure workers know what to do in emergencies involving forklift batteries. Train them in your workplace procedures. Here are general emergency steps:

  • Know where the spill kit is located. It is designed specifically for acid spills and should be located in the designated battery charging and storage area. Acid spill kits have absorbent materials designed to absorb acid liquids. They also come with acid-resistant PPE. Acid spill kits have tools, such as shovels, and container drums that are made of plastic so they will not be corroded by the acid. Workers must know they should never touch an acid spill unless they have received specific training on spill response and spill cleanup.
  • Use the neutralizing solution in the acid spill kit. Baking soda is commonly used to neutralize acid spills.

Get the safety policies you need without the work. They’re in BLR’s Essential Safety Policies program. Try it at no cost and no risk.

  • Know where the emergency shower and eyewash station are located. The designated battery charging and storage area should have these stations located nearby–especially if electrolyte is handled in the area.
  • Rinse thoroughly with water for at least 10 minutes and then seek medical attention if electrolyte comes into contact with your eyes or skin.

For more information, OSHA provides a thorough review of forklift hazards and precautions.

Why It Matters …

  • Forklift batteries present many hazards—some can be fatal.
  • Acid burns, electrical shock, and explosions are some of the dangers.
  • Employees need to be trained in forklift battery precautions in order to stay safe.

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