Increasingly, companies are switching from internal combustion forklifts to electric forklifts. Electric forklifts are quiet, have increased run times, shorter recharging times and reduced emissions (which virtually eliminate the hazards associated with carbon monoxide poisoning). However, electric forklifts present other safety hazards, particularly when charging the battery

Only trained personnel should change and charge batteries in electric industrial trucks. In addition to training in battery changing and charging procedures, these employees should be trained on emergency procedures in the event of an acid splash, including how to use eyewash and shower facilities.

Potential hazards include:

  • Batteries are very heavy and pose a dropping hazard–some batteries weigh as much as 2,000 pounds or more. Use lifting beam or other mechanical equivalent to lift battery
  • Batteries contain sulfuric acid that is highly corrosive and could be splashed on personnel servicing or changing batteries it can cause severe burns. Use personal protective equipment while changing the battery. This should include: splash goggles or face shield, neoprene or rubber gloves, rubber or neoprene apron, acid resistant safety shoes or boots. Contact lenses should not be worn while changing batteries. Refer to the SDS if a spill or exposure occurs.
  • Toward the end of the battery charging process, batteries can give off highly explosive hydrogen gas. This is commonly called “out gassing”. Use non-sparking tools, prevent open flame, electrical arcs or sparks. Open the battery cover to prevent gas build-up, especially in confined areas. Post non-smoking signs in the area.
  • Contact with battery cells may cause electrical short circuits in certain situations, which can burn unprotected skin. Remove all jewelry before charging batteries.

Battery Charging Stations Should have the following:

  • No smoking.
  • Warning signs posted.
  • Adequate fire protection. A dry chemical, CO2 or foam fire extinguisher.
  • Ample and readily available water supply for flushing and neutralizing spilled electrolyte.
  • An eyewash able to provide a 15 minute flow. For large installations, there should be a plumbed drench shower and an eyewash.
  • A phone or other means of communication in the event of an emergency.
  • Adequate ventilation to avoid the build- up of hydrogen gas during battery charging.
  • Soda ash or other neutralization materials in the immediate area.
  • Means to protect charging apparatus from damage from trucks

For further reference,