Ask the Expert, Training

Ask the Expert: Lithium-Ion Battery Storage and Handling 

In our latest installment of Ask the Expert, brought to you by the team of industry experts at EHS Hero®, we look at a recent question from a subscriber asking about training for the storage and handling of lithium-ion batteries. See what the experts had to say.   

Q: What is a recommended training plan for the storage and handling of lithium-Ion batteries? We use 50lb batteries in farm tractors. 

Unfortunately, OSHA regulations do not address battery safety in detail, primarily mentioning them in 29 CFR 1910.306(h) “Electrical—Specific purpose equipment and installations,” 29 CFR 1910.268(b)(2) “Telecommunications,” and 29 CFR 1926.441 “Electrical—Batteries and Battery Charging” related to powered industrial trucks. The Agency also mentions batteries in passing in a few other standards. None of these rules addresses training requirements for storing or handling lithium-ion batteries. 

However, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), regulates lithium cells and batteries as part of its shipping requirements for hazardous materials in 49 CFR 173.185. This rule relates to employers who handle, ship, recycle, and dispose of lithium batteries, but again, does not address training requirements for storing or handling lithium-ion batteries. 

In general, manufacturer recommendations and specifications should always be followed when storing or handling lithium-ion batteries, and workers should refer to the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for the specific battery. The SDS will contain 16 categories of information on each battery, including: 

  • Hazard identification 
  • First aid, fire-fighting and accidental release measures 
  • Handling and storage 
  • Exposure control and personal protection 
  • Physical and chemical properties 
  • Stability and reactivity 
  • Toxicological and ecological information 
  • Disposal and transport information 
  • Regulatory information 

Training related to the storage and handling of lithium-ion batteries should cover each of these areas. Additionally, a training program on battery safety should include information about: 

  • DOT Hazardous Materials (HazMat) training per 49 CFR 172.704; 
  • Relevant PHMSA rules; 
  • International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulations; 
  • OSHA’s Hazardous Waste Operation and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) Standard (29 CFR 1910.120); and 
  • OSHA’s Hazard Communication (HazCom) Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200). 

Currently, BLR offers detailed training materials on HazMat under the “HazMat Transportation” topic; on HAZWOPER under the “HAZWOPER” and “PPE-General topics,” and HazCom under the “Hazard Communication” and “Labels” topics. Under “Corrosives and Battery Safety,” we also offer a PowerPoint course titled “Battery Safety,” which will soon be updated to contain more information on lithium ion batteries, as well a Toolbox Talk titled “Lithium-Ion Batteries: Handling and Storage.” 

Finally, and for additional safety guidance and other useful information regarding lithium batteries, employers should reference applicable standards and publications from: 

  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) —IEEE 1679; 
  • Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL)—UL 1642—”Safety of Lithium-Ion Batteries;” and 
  • National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) —”Lithium-ion batteries hazard and use assessment.”