Electric forklifts can reduce the presence of carbon monoxide and lower noise levels in work areas, but one of the biggest challenges that facility managers face when introducing electric forklifts to their operations is making enough room to change and charge forklift batteries.
Facility managers should always plan out these systems, including the specifics around which types of equipment they'll need. For starters, forklift charging stations should be separated from the forklift battery changing stations, but there's more to it than that.
Let's review some of the other requirements from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for forklift battery charging and changing stations:
Forklift changing station requirements
Forklift batteries are heavy, typically weighing between 800 to 4,000 pounds, so properly lifting this equipment is essential to prevent injuries. Batteries should be changed using a lifting beam. A chain with two hooks is never a good substitute, as these could distort the battery or otherwise damage it.
When removing or replacing the batteries, there's always a risk of a battery acid spill, which can severely damage a person's clothing, skin or eyes. An eyewash station should be near the battery station, and all employees should be aware of its placement and how it operates. If there's enough room, eyewash stations should also include a shower.
Additionally, all employees who handle batteries should have access to personal protective equipment such as splash goggles, rubber gloves, acid-resistant shoes and rubber aprons.
Forklift charging station requirements
A facility's layout should protect the forklift charging station from other equipment to minimize the risk of damage to equipment. Guardrails can keep fork trucks or other equipment out of this area.
The charging station should also be well equipped to handle a fire. The batteries give off highly explosive hydrogen fumes during charging, especially toward the end of their charging time. Facilities should store dry chemical or carbon dioxide fire extinguishers nearby. All tools used in the charging area should not give off sparks, as they can cause a fire.
To reduce the hazard posed by hydrogen fumes, make sure the charging area is well ventilated. Additionally, to lower the risk of fires, employees should not smoke in or around the charging area, and facility managers should post signs as a reminder.
Battery acid spills can occur at the charging station, so it's important to be prepared with easily accessible soda ash or another neutralizing material.
To make sure employees know what to do in the event of an acid spill or splash, facility managers should post emergency protocol instructions near the charging area. Additionally, all employees who handle batteries should know the correct procedures: Add acid to water, not the other way around.
Replacing forklift batteries
Forklift battery manufacturers state a recommended number of hours in service before the battery should be placed out of service. Never exceed this amount, even if the battery is still working. After this point, the battery won't be as strong and could become dangerous.
When the battery is discharged, it should be disposed of correctly. Batteries are considered a hazardous waste and should be brought to a battery recycling facility or a lead smelter.
Who should handle forklift batteries?
Only trained personnel should handle forklift batteries. There are many risks associated with changing and charging forklift batteries, and one wrong move can cause injuries or damage to your facility.
The professionals with National Maintenance Services are trained on the proper maintenance of forklift batteries, including charging, changing and disposal. To learn more about how NMS can help your facility practice safe forklift battery management, reach out today.