New Braunfels, TX, July 5, 2023
Our safety topic for today is battery safety, we will cover some basic points related to battery safety but there is much more discussion that could be had around this topic. Batteries provide a portable – and usually safe – source of electrical power for countless applications. From tiny cells used in wristwatches to industrial-size utility backups, batteries keep things working for us. The chemical reactions required to generate electricity involve toxic and explosive substances, harmful to humans and the environment. Large batteries can deliver fatal electrical shock. We will cover 4 key points today related to this topic. Those points are:
- Understand the hazards associated with batteries.
- Inspect batteries before you handle them.
- Be sure to use PPE when needed.
- Know the necessary first aid treatments.
UNDERSTAND THE HAZARDS ASSOCIATED WITH BATTERIES
These are the four main hazards associated with batteries. They are exposure to corrosive acids, flammable gases, potential for electric shock, and sprains/strains. The electrolytes in most batteries are corrosive and can burn skin or eyes, eat holes in clothing, or even scratch a concrete floor. Some batteries emit hydrogen gas, which is flammable. It ignites easily and can cause a fire or explosion if allowed to build up in a small area. Many of us are aware of this danger because we may have seen sparks fly when jumper cables are attached to a car battery. Some battery systems are capable of discharging at extremely high rates of current. Accidental shorting of terminals or cables can result in severe electrical arcing, causing you to get burned and/or shocked. Lastly, many of the batteries we deal with are very heavy and if not lifted properly can lead to sprains or strains. Make sure to use proper lifting techniques, use mechanical advantage when possible, or simply ask for help when moving batteries from point a to point b.
INSPECT BATTERIES BEFORE YOU HANDLE THEM
Prior to handling batteries, you must conduct a thorough inspection of the equipment. The inspection should target several key items that could lead to injury or environmental issues. At a minimum you should look for: signs of leakage, corrosion, signs of physical damage, loose terminals, or connections. In addition, to these items you should touch the batteries to notice any abnormal temperature. Excessive heat is a sign of that something might not be right with the batteries and additional consultation is required. Lastly, you want to pay attention for any presence of fumes. If you smell something weird, leave the area and make the call! If any items are found to be in a hazardous condition notify your supervisor ASAP and let the safety team know as well. Make sure that you wash your hands and face immediately after handling batteries. If there was leakage or excessive residue you might even, consider changing your clothes.
BE SURE TO USE PPE WHEN NEEDED
A primary safeguard when handling batteries is utilizing the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) when needed. There is no one size fits all guidance when it comes to PPE and batteries. In some cases, you might need safety glasses or goggles and a face shield to protect your eyes and face from chemical splashes. Other tasks could require the use of rubber gloves to provide both acid protection and electrical resistance to prevent shocks. You might from time to time even need a chemical apron as, your clothes and body need protection as well. Lastly, you will want to protect your toes and feet from spills and crush hazards by wearing the right shoes or boots.
KNOW THE NECESSARY FIRST AID TREATMENTS
When workers skin or eyes come into contact with chemicals contained within batteries, it is critical to administer the appropriate first aid immediately. In more severe exposure events, emergency services could be required. It is important to understand first aid requirements prior to handling batteries to ensure the appropriated items are available. The procurement and review of SDS sheets prior to handling batteries is critical to the well-being of our workers. While water can be used to flush exposed areas in most, it could react harshly with some of the chemicals, specifically sulfuric acid. That is why the review of SDS sheets before handling batteries is critical. Skin exposure requires flushing of the affected area for at least 30 minutes. Removal of clothing is another key step, as is removing contact lenses before flushing your eyes. Emergency services must be called anytime a worker’s eyes come into contact with battery chemicals, even if the worker feels ok. Make sure that the necessary wash stations and clean water are readily available in warehouses and work sites.
As I mentioned today’s key points only scratch the surface when it comes to battery safety. Some other things to consider are transporting, temporarily storing batteries for our customers, spill cleanup, proper disposal, shipment tracking, and use of insulated tools to name a few. Many accidents with batteries happen because workers do not know about safe handling procedures. Understanding battery safety is the way to protect yourself and your coworkers from serious injury.
If you would like more information on this topic or any other safety-related topic, please reach out to the Ontivity safety team at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will get you taken care of.