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Changing a Forklift Battery Safely

Filed under: Safety

Battery powered industrial forklifts are used in a variety of applications and are becoming increasingly popular. These days, the benefits of battery electrics include longer running times, shorter recharging times and reduced emissions. Battery electric forklifts range from small, motorized pallet trucks to much larger forklifts. Regardless of which battery electric forklift you have, there are similar hazards associated with batteries.

This week we will provide you with tips on staying safe when changing your forklift’s battery.

Battery warning sign

Battery Hazards

Two types of batteries are utilised in industrial forklifts: lead acid and nickel-iron. Both of these batteries can pose health and safety hazards. This is mainly due to three factors, the sheer weight of the batteries, the gases emitted during charging (which can be highly volatile) and the corrosive chemicals that exist within the battery itself.

Due to these hazards, it is important that battery changing stations and employees are equipped with the right safety equipment in order to minimise any risks of danger.

Workplaces must have safety procedures in place in order to deal with any dangerous situations that may occur.

Forklift battery

Here are a few safety tips to follow when changing your forklift’s battery:

  1. Any employees engaging in the changing or charging of batteries should always wear protective clothing.
  2. Forklifts should be in a stationary position with the handbrake on and engine off before attempting to change the battery.
  3. Battery charging installations should occur in designated areas.
  4. The designated installation area should be a smoke free zone, with signs clearly indicating this.
  5. In order to keep this area safe, facilities should be provided for: flushing and neutralizing spilled electrolyte, fire protection, the protection of charging equipment and the adequate ventilation for dispersal of fumes from gassing batteries.
  6. A conveyor, overhead hoist or equivalent material handling equipment should be available for handling batteries.
  7. Vent captions should be checked to ensure they are fully functioning. The battery (or compartment) cover(s) should be open to dissipate heat.
  8. Provide a carboy tilter or siphon for handling electrolyte.
  9. Ensure that reinstalled batteries are properly positioned and secure in the forklift before operating the equipment.
  10. Precautions must be taken to prevent open flames, sparks or electric arcs in battery charging areas
  11. Tools and other metallic objects must never be left on top of uncovered batteries.

electric forklift

When dealing with forklift batteries it is extremely important to change and charge them safely. These objects can be very hazardous if they are not dealt with in an appropriate manner. Safety procedures should always be followed to avoid any preventable work place accidents.

Battery warning sign

We have listed some important safety tips in regards to changing your battery. Do you have any more to add to our list?

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Next entry: Loading Dock Safety

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Hi im from melbourne victoria, i work in cold room environment 0-5 degrees we currently have electric froklifts and pallet jacks, are we allowed to have the chargers in the coolroom and charge them in this coolroom. As were not sure because it emits gases when on charge and there in no proper ventilation only a high ceiling with refrigerator units that blows the gases around the coolroom weather its on othersode of the factory or near can still smell the fumes

Rikky Carey
March 08, 2016 - 1:34 am

Hi Rikky,

There are several reasons you should not charge forklift batteries in a cool room, I shall list them in point form, should you have any further questions do not hesitate to get back to us.

- The mixture of cold from the cool room and the internal heat in the charger generates moisture in the charger. Should this moisture create an internal short, there is the potential of electric shock. The charger itself can also fault or catch fire.
- Charging in an enclosed environment is not recommended. It is based on the quantity of batteries being charged though. The atmospheric saturation of hydrogen (the gas created during the final stages of charging) must be kept below 2%. An explosive environment is generated at a saturation of 4%. Gas detection devises can be purchased online and from some retailers.
- A battery’s optimum running temperature is 30 deg C. For each degree below 30, loss of battery capacity occurs.
- At low temperatures, batteries will more readily sulphate and have a shorter life expectancy, water/electrolyte can freeze resulting in internal damage to the battery.

Hope that information helps!

AAL Admin
March 08, 2016 - 3:24 pm

I work at the USPS we have been given directions to change the forklifts and tug batteries before the are cooled down, is this a safety hazard ( enersys 24 and 36v)

Tina Watt
September 18, 2016 - 12:58 am

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