Battery maintenance tasks are associated with several types of danger. Thus, some safe work practices and precautions should be considered during each step of these tasks.
There are several types of batteries. Their selection and use depend on the needs of the user. The most common types of batteries are:
- Lead-acid batteries
- Nickel batteries
- Lithium batteries
Battery-related dangers, as well as preventative measures and emergency measures, vary depending on several factors such as the battery type (type, weight) and the task or tasks to be performed on the battery. However, four sources of danger are associated with almost all industrial use batteries.
These sources of danger will be presented using, as an example, lead-acid batteries, which are often encountered in industrial environments.
– Emission of and/or exposure to hydrogen gas: the risks related to this danger are highly affected by the charging method.
This gas, lighter than ambient air, is characterized by high flammability and becomes explosive at 4 to 74% in air. In addition, according to the CNESST toxicological directory classification, hydrogen gas is a simple asphyxiant because it displaces oxygen, causing quick suffocation, especially since its presence is not evidenced by a color or odor.
For this reason, it is very important to store and maintain batteries in a well-ventilated workplace away from sources of ignition and any incompatible products such as cigarettes, flames or sparks that could cause a battery to explode.
– Exposure to or contact with sulfuric acid: With a -3 pKa (acid strength), exposure to sulfuric acid when performing maintenance on batteries is extremely dangerous, especially to the skin and eyes (highly corrosive to the skin, eyes, respiratory and digestive tract). Therefore, tasks with risk of contact with the acid or requiring handling of the acid should be performed with of lot of caution.
- Never lean over a battery when testing, boosting or charging it.
- If acid splashes on skin or eyes, immediatelyflush the area with cool running water for at least 15 minutes and seek medical attention.
- Be extremely careful when handling electrolytes and keep an acid-neutralizing solution, such as baking soda available.
- Always wear appropriate PPE.
- Use non-metallic containers to handle the liquid.
- Neutralize any electrolyte that spills in the work area with baking soda. After neutralization, clean the contaminated area with water.
– Electric shock:Some battery systems can discharge at extremely high rates of current. Accidental shorting of the terminals or cables can cause shocks, arcs and/or severe burns.
- Never touch both battery terminals with bare hands at the same time
- Remove rings, watches, and jewelry while working on, with or near batteries. The metal in the jewelry can cause a shock or burn if it comes into contact with the battery terminals.
- Only use insulated / non-conductive tools to remove caps from cells. Never lay tools or other metal parts on top of the battery.
- Make sure the charger is turned off before connecting or disconnecting a battery to avoid arcing.
– Battery handling: Batteries can be very dense and heavy, so use proper lifting techniques to avoid back injury or battery drop incidents (depending on the weight of the battery). Battery housings can be brittle and break easily. They must be handled with care to avoid an acid spill.
- Use appropriate equipment for handling the batteries.
- Make sure that battery handling tasks are performed by trained personnel.
- Never try to hold a battery in the event of a fall or slip
- If a battery shows signs of damage to its terminals, its case or its cover, it must be put out of use and disposed of properly.
The lists of preventative measures cited for each dangerous phenomenon is not exhaustive and other actions may be required to safely maintain batteries.
Please feel free to contact us for any further information!
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Intervention Prévention Inc.
Intervention Prévention concentrates its operations in the field of work safety, offering specialized services following Standards CSA Z462 – Workplace Electrical Safety, CSA Z460 – Control of Hazardous Energy: Lock-out and Other Methods, and CSA Z432 – Safeguarding of Machinery.