Electric forklifts can improve a warehouse's operations by reducing carbon emissions and lowering noise in the facility. However, like any other piece of material handling equipment, electric lift trucks come with some risks.
Forklift batteries are designed to last for one shift, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. After that, spent batteries should receive a charge for the next shift or possibly overnight. When it's time for a charge or a change, only a trained professional should handle the battery or operate the charging station. Some of the potential hazards include:
- Acid spills: Sulfuric acid in the batteries is highly corrosive.
- Fires: Hydrogen fumes emitted toward the end of charging are very explosive.
- Burns: Touching the batteries can lead to electrical shorts.
- Damage: Forklift batteries are both a fuel source and a counterbalance, according to WarehouseIQ.com. They can weigh as much as several thousand pounds, which means drops could be destructive.
August 13-19, 2018 marks this year's annual Safe + Sound Week, promoted by OSHA. This nationwide event encourages employers and workers to find and fix hazards in their workplaces.
— US Labor Department (@USDOL) August 13, 2018
If your forklift battery charging station safety could use a tune-up, consider making these adjustments:
Create a dedicated battery room or station
To prevent accidents from happening, it's best to sequester charging and discharged batteries from general warehouse traffic. Since charging batteries are fire hazards, even a small spark can cause a lot of damage. Additionally, acid spills can do much more harm when they're near other equipment, inventory and employees.
Battery rooms should be designed to reduce these hazards. Guardrails or other barriers that are visible and strong enough to withstand impact should be installed around battery handling equipment. Floors should be flat and acid-resistant. Finally, the room should be well ventilated to reduce the buildup of dangerous fumes.
Always have the right forklift battery safety equipment available
Facilities should always be equipped with the right safety devices to protect workers from risks. This is critically important in the battery changing area. Here are some types of equipment needed to reduce four major risks associated with forklift batteries listed above:
Equipment to prevent acid damage:
- Eyewash station.
- Spill kits.
- Soda ash.
- Baking soda.
Equipment to prevent fire damage:
- Hydrogen gas detectors.
- Carbon dioxide, dry chemical or foam fire extinguishers.
Equipment to prevent electrical burns:
- Safety goggles.
- Face shields.
- Rubber or neoprene gloves and aprons.
Equipment to prevent battery damage:
- Lifting beam to hoist the battery.
- Structural barriers to protect batteries.
Work with an embedded technician
National Maintenance Services has dedicated technicians who integrate into your workplace to handle some of your most important forklift safety tasks. Forklifts and their charging stations require regular maintenance and inspections. Additionally, forklift batteries should be handled only by people with the proper training. To find out how an embedded technician can benefit your facility, reach out to NMS.