Home » Archive by category "Blog"

Blog

The Three Basic Types Of Forklift Battery Handling Equipment and Their Benefits

When it comes to changing out forklift batteries, OSHA regulations have a lot to say. But of all the federal safety standards that cover the battery room, two stand out as the most vital. First, changing and charging forklift batteries should be done in a designated area of your facility. Second, forklift batteries should be changed using appropriate forklift battery handling equipment.

You can divide forklift battery handling equipment into three basic categories, each configured for different lift truck designs and operational challenges. Depending on these factors, one of the following technologies will provide the safest, most efficient battery changes available.

3 Types of Forklift Battery Extractors

Some forklifts are designed for battery removal from the side, which can be accomplished with a Battery Carriage or Operator Aboard Battery Extractor. Forklifts requiring vertical extraction need a Portable Gantry Crane for the task.

Portable Gantry Crane Systems

A gantry crane is the classic machine for handling forklift batteries. Before side-extraction designs took over the forklift market, batteries had to be lifted out of compartments vertically — and there are plenty of trucks in operation that still require vertical extraction. Gantry cranes accomplish this task quickly and safely, and are available in a variety of manual and powered configurations. Powered gantries offer more safety and efficiency benefits because they reduce operator fatigue and the chance of injury to personnel and equipment.

BHS offers both powered and non-powered gantries in a variety of beam spans and capacities to fit your warehouse’s needs. BHS gantry cranes provide safe and easy vertical extraction for most standard lift truck batteries.

Battery Carriage Systems

Not all forklifts are built for vertical battery extraction. In fact, these days, most aren’t. Lateral battery changes require dedicated equipment such as Battery Carriages.

At the very least, every owner of an electric forklift needs manual equipment to safely remove and replace forklift batteries. Walkie Transfer Carriages (WTC) allow users to change batteries in side-extraction applications safely and quickly — but for really fast battery changes, you’ll need some electric power. That’s why higher-output warehouses turn to more automatic means of handling forklift batteries.

Battery Transfer Carriages (BTC) from BHS are available with every possible combination of powered functionality, from a manual travel with winch-powered extraction to fully powered lift and extraction actions.

BHS’ Automatic Transfer Carriages mount on pallet trucks, which allows a warehouse to cut equipment costs by using existing equipment. Their hydraulic-powered push-pull extraction cuts down on the time it takes to change out forklift batteries manually and provides OSHA-compliant safety benefits.

For even larger fleets, Mobile Battery Extractors can travel anywhere in the facility to change batteries truck-side. Their hydraulic-powered extractor arms effortlessly handle up to 5,000 pounds of steel, lead, and electrolyte, and they’re designed for a minimum of maintenance.

Powered transfer carriages reduce the time it takes to change out forklift batteries. They make a shipping and receiving operation more efficient. For larger and busier operations, at least some degree of automation is a must in order to keep up with the competition.

Operator Aboard Battery Extractors

For large and busy warehouses that frequently change dozens of batteries per day, Operator Aboard Battery Extractors (BE) provide the quickest and safest means to seamlessly change out batteries, reducing downtime for every truck in the fleet.

Larger-scale warehouses will naturally have busier battery changing areas. Many battery rooms take advantage of vertical space by using multi-tier forklift battery charging stands, up to four levels high. For the sake of efficiency and safety, a systematic and comprehensive approach to battery change-outs is particularly important for these high-volume battery rooms, and Operator Aboard Battery Extractors provide the solution.

Operator Aboard Battery Extractors substantially reduce the time that it takes to change out a forklift battery. Additionally, there are applications that can track each battery on the shelves and in the forklifts to instantly inform forklift operators which battery to choose during change-outs. Such applications make it exponentially easier to maximize the health and efficiency of a forklift fleet.

Operations of all sizes benefit from BHS’ operator aboard battery extractors, which are available in models ranging from single-level to quad-stack.

No matter the size of your forklift fleet, you’ll need one of these three types of forklift battery handling equipment in order to comply with OSHA regulations. Some trucks require gantry cranes, while others can only be served by Battery Extractors. But either way, the heavy duty steel construction of BHS battery handling equipment will get your forklifts back out onto the floor as quickly and safely possible, boosting efficiency overall.

References

Powered industrial trucks – 1910.178.” OSHA. Occupational Safety & Health Administration,

United States Department of Labor, n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

Powered Industrial Trucks (Forklift).” OSHA. Occupational Safety & Health Administration,

United States Department of Labor, n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2016

Understanding How Forklift Battery Handling Equipment Improves Safety in the Workplace

Successful warehousing and logistics operations put safety first. It’s the right thing to do for employees, their families, and your enterprise’s competitiveness in the market. There are just a handful of industries that have more workplace injuries than the shipping and receiving industry, and with those injuries come lost time, increased costs, and decreased efficiency — to say nothing of the devastating human cost.

BHS forklift battery handling equipmentAlthough users of electric forklifts benefit from lower-cost operation and environmental advantages, they also incur additional safety hazards. Luckily, these risks are easy to control with adequate staff training and the right battery handling equipment.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration lists four discrete hazards for handling forklift batteries:

  • Batteries can weigh more than a ton, and with this weight comes crushing risks as well as ergonomic challenges.
  • As the name implies, lead-acid batteries contain corrosive electrolyte. Employers must take steps to ensure that staff members don’t come into contact with sulfuric acid when working in the battery room.
  • At the final stages of charging, forklift batteries emit hydrogen, which becomes explosive at a concentration of four percent or greater.
  • If employees touch battery cells, they might create an electrical short circuit, which can cause serious burns.

Ergonomics and Spill Prevention

We’ll tackle each of these concerns in order, starting with ergonomics. Some warehouses still have personnel change batteries by hand, with insufficient equipment, and that requires the kind of lifting and twisting that can seriously injure an employee’s back — or worse.

In order to prevent costly injuries, both from “lift-and-twist” muscle strains and the danger of a falling battery, provide employees with adequate battery handling equipment. BHS’ Automatic Transfer Carriage (ATC) comes in several models, including versions that don’t require you to dedicate a pallet truck to battery-changing full time.

Even the heftier Operator Aboard Battery Extractor has available features that enhance workplace safety by reducing the risk of injury to personnel. BHS’ operator aboard battery extractors include anti-fatigue mats, a thick PVC sponge surface to prevent slips and falls while getting in and out of the extractor.

Sulfuric Acid in Forklift Batteries

The second big issue with battery handling is dealing with sulfuric acid. Of course, any time personnel handle forklift batteries, they should wear the proper acid-resistant safety gear.

The battery handling equipment that your warehouse uses should also be acid-resistant. If floors, battery extractors, and battery racks aren’t properly protected from acid splash and spills, then the equipment will degrade and malfunction in ways that pose risks of workplace injury. All BHS battery room equipment features an acid- and scratch-resistant powder coat finish built to withstand contact with electrolyte.

Preventing Hydrogen Gas Accumulation

Dealing with hydrogen is a simple question of ventilation. The central OSHA standard dedicated to battery handling and charging, 29 CFR 1910.178(g), requires employers to provide “adequate ventilation for dispersal of fumes from gassing batteries. A comprehensive Battery Room Ventilation System (BRVS) from BHS detects hydrogen at a concentration of just one percent, automatically activating fans to keep gas from accumulating.

Eliminating the Risk of Burns From Forklift Batteries

This hazard basically comes down to good training. As OSHA recommends, battery room staff shouldn’t wear metallic jewelry, and metal tools must be kept far away from the tops of uncovered batteries. Provide your staff with personal protective equipment (PPE) including rubber gloves to further reduce this risk.

When you’re selecting forklift battery handling equipment, it’s important to keep in mind how your choices will affect overall workplace safety. Selecting the proper equipment will help your operation run safely, which prevents injuries while also creating a much more efficient operation overall.

References:

Powered industrial trucks – 1910.178.” OSHA. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, United States Department of Labor, n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

Powered Industrial Trucks (Forklift).OSHA. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, United States Department of Labor, n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

Seamlessly Transitioning to Electric Power for Forklifts

electric-power-forkliftBy 2014, over half of the forklifts in the United States had already made the shift to electric power. Only 36 percent of the U.S. forklift market stuck with fossil fuels that year. Reluctance to make the switch to a greener, more cost-effective source of motive power usually boils down to two things: anxiety about higher up-front costs and fear of productivity losses during the transition.

However, nearly every warehouse, big or small, can join the 64 percent of forklift users who have already made the move to battery power. The key is to work with a provider that can get your facility outfitted for electric power without having to shut everything down for installation.

Efficiency Gains from Forklift Battery Handling Equipment

The biggest difference between gas and electric forklifts is that the fuel source for the latter is reusable. That means each battery you buy provides you with 5-7 years worth of power, but it also means you need a comprehensive strategy to change out forklift batteries for charging and maintenance.

Plan to set aside a dedicated space in your warehouse for this. Of course, warehouse space is a valuable commodity, and batteries can be quite large. In order to minimize the footprint of your battery room, you just need to take advantage of vertical space. Multi-tiered battery stands provide the solution.

You will also need to determine what kind of equipment is best for changing out your batteries. If your lift fleet is small to medium-sized, a pallet truck-mounted automatic transfer carriage, such as the BHS Automatic Transfer Carriage (ATC), might fit your needs.

Larger or busier fleets demand multiple battery change-outs per day, and pallet-truck-mounted equipment just won’t be able to keep up. So, larger fleets will require an operator aboard battery extractor that reduces change-out times to the absolute minimum. Operator aboard battery extractors require a clear “track” to move back and forth between the battery racks, so you’ll need to place your battery changing area where there’s sufficient space. BHS offers operator aboard battery extractors that safely navigate up to four tiers of stands.

Smooth Battery Room Installations, Without Productivity Loss

Once you have a plan for a safe and efficient battery room, you still need to build it — preferably without work-loss for a single shift. Project managers at BHS have decades of experience planning and implementing battery room installations in working warehouses. A phased install allows your facility to continue meeting all productivity goals while your battery room is being built; it’s the proverbial building the plane while it’s in the air.

When you make the move from fossil fuels to battery-powered lifts, it’s important not only to think about your warehouse’s current needs and demands, but those of the future. Battery powered lifts will save most every operation cost both day-to-day and in the long run. Just make sure you choose a provider who can not only provide the finest equipment, but can create a strategy that will keep your operation growing in the midst of this valuable transition.

References:

Batteries and battery charging – 1926.441.” OSHA. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, United States Department of Labor, n.d. Web 11 Apr. 2016.

Faust, Brian. “Electric Forklifts Gain Acceptance, Driven by Sustainability Features.” Foodlogistics. AC Business Media, 2016. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

LPG vs. Battery Electric Forklifts.” Aalhysterforklifts. Adaptalift Hyster, 2016. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

Talvery, John. “Advantages of Electric Forklifts (with a few drawbacks too).” Theforkliftcenter. The Forklift Center, 2013. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

How to Choose The Right Operator Aboard Battery Extractor for Your Operation

choose-the-right-operator-aboard-battery-extractorIf your forklift fleet continues to grow, the time will come when manually changing out batteries just won’t make practical sense. That’s when it’s time to make the investment in an Operator Aboard Battery Extractor.

There are many types of Battery Extractors out there, and the many larger and finer points among them might seem a little bit confusing. When you’re shopping for what will be such an important investment, pay close attention to these five characteristics. Finding the perfect combination of each will keep your battery room humming along at an astonishing rate.

  1. The extractor arm – Look for a T-shaped extractor arm with enclosed components. A T-shaped extractor arm, as opposed to a dangling above-battery extractor arm, is more stable and more sturdy. An extractor arm that has enclosed components will perform better and require less maintenance because contaminants won’t gum it up.

  2. The battery grip – Most of today’s Operator Aboard Battery Extractors use one of two technologies to grip the batteries: a vacuum cup or an electromagnet. Vacuum cups are the ideal grips because they cause much less wear and tear on batteries. However, if your fleet uses smaller-than-average batteries, you might have to choose a system that uses electromagnets.

  3. The roller bed – Some systems’ roller beds are powered while other systems are free-rolling. For the safety of both your personnel and your equipment, powered roller beds are ideal. When a powered roller bed isn’t rolling, it acts as a brake for batteries on the bed.

  4. The lift mechanism – There are several types of lift mechanisms available, including rack-and-pinion, tube-in-tube hydraulics, and complex lift chain systems. Look for a lift system that puts the least amount of stress on the components and has built-in safety features in case something goes wrong during a lift. One such safety feature to look for is a velocity fuse, which immediately shuts off flow when a hose breaks and keeps the carriage safely suspended.

  5. The drive system – Each and every battery change requires floor travel, so you’ll want to look for an Operator Aboard Battery Extractor that’s reliable in this regard. An extractor that has dual independent motors works best because it can still run even if one of its motors requires repair. This way, the whole system isn’t offline and you can schedule repair during downtime.

It’s also important to pick an extractor that has a drive system that’s quick and easy to service. The fewer bolts and fittings that need to be removed in order to service the drive system, the better. This will reduce downtime and prevent the orders from piling-up too much while the extractor’s drive system is serviced and/or repaired.

So, keep these five basics in mind when you’re comparing Operator Aboard Battery Extractors that are out there. Any good sales rep should be able to give the answers about any of these five basics. Remember that Operator Aboard Battery Extractors from BHS provide the ideal combination of these factors, and are available in models that travel up to four tiers high to accommodate battery fleets of any size.

References:

Comparative Analysis: BHS Battery Extractors vs. the Competition.” BHS1. Battery Handling Systems, Inc., 23 Apr. 2015. Web. 6 Apr. 2016.

When to Upgrade From Battery Carriages to a Complete Operator Aboard Battery Extractor System

When it comes to forklift battery change-outs, a small warehouse operation with just one or two forklifts can get by with minimal battery handling equipment. Portable battery transfer carriages take the risk and strain out of battery handling, and they continue to pay dividends — as long as your fleet isn’t too large. But as your business expands, you’ll need a more comprehensive system to keep up with your growing battery collection.

It can be a painful decision to upgrade equipment. But efficiency gains quickly pay back initial investments, and a skilled installation team can make the transition seamless. So when does it become worth it — even mandatory — to make the jump to a system that can handle the greater workload?

Start with a simple question.

forklift battery change-outs

How many times a day will you change out forklift batteries? When you only have a few lift trucks, and they aren’t used constantly, you might only require one or two battery change-outs per day. In that case, carts or carriages are the perfect solution.

But when your fleet expands to 10 or 20 or 100 forklifts, you’ll need to drastically reduce the time your staff spends on motive power needs. You don’t want your team bogged-down with changing batteries when they could be filling orders. And trying to keep up with expanding demand using existing equipment is a dangerous road; a transfer carriage just isn’t built to handle dozens of change-outs per day.

Factor your team’s workload into the decision.

Some operations can use a BHS Automatic Transfer Carriage (ATC) up to its maximum recommended limit of 20 battery changes per day. But an Operator Aboard Battery Extractor System can easily cut change-out times in half compared to the ATC. If you rely on lift truck operators to change their own batteries, that extra time may make the transition worth it, since it will keep the fleet focused on revenue-generating tasks.

While every facility has a unique set of requirements and challenges, you’re generally ready for an Operator Aboard Battery Extractor System when you start to notice forklift drivers queuing up for changes. Idleness is a symptom of insufficient equipment, and it can be incredibly harmful to your bottom line.

Plan for the future growth of your battery collection.

A 2015 study by Peerless Research Group recommends choosing all material handling equipment based on your projected needs over the next five years, at minimum. (The report is available here, behind a free paywall). That’s good advice.

Companies benefit from a little prescience in their battery room design. If you expect to continue growing your forklift fleet, the sooner you move to a higher-capacity battery handling system, the better. Even if growth doesn’t match your projections, the increased efficiency and safety of a top-notch battery room will provide plenty of benefits, no matter what size fleet you end up with. This brings us to the next important question.

Which Operator Aboard Battery Extractor System works for you?

The point deserves repeating: every business is different, and there are hundreds of factors that will go into your decision on upgrading your battery handling plan. Generally, though, you can follow these guidelines to choose the size of your Operator Aboard Battery Extractor System.

An Operator Aboard Battery Extractor not only allows your warehouse to keep up with the work, it also helps you to get that work done as efficiently as possible. And efficiency can make all the difference between you and your competitors.

References:

What You Need To Know When Choosing Material Handling Systems.” MMH. Peerless Media LLC, 16 June 2015. Web. 17 March 2016.

Forklift Battery Handling Equipment for Smaller Fleets

Not every forklift user operates a vast fleet of hundreds. In fact, most don’t. A 2010 survey by industry journal DC Velocity found that the bulk of their respondents (57 percent) operated fewer than 25 lift trucks. Only 12 percent regularly used more than 100 trucks.

The same survey uncovered another key statistic: almost 90 percent of the respondents said that their fleets included electric forklifts. When electric vehicles are in your fleet, care and maintenance of batteries becomes a crucial part of your operation. Battery handling equipment that’s up to the task is a must.

For modest fleet-owners, that equipment probably includes a forklift battery carriage. But with so many models on the market, which one should you choose? forklift battery handling equipment using pallet jackHere are a few general categories of forklift users, along with recommended carriages for each.

  • Operators of Small Fleets.

    “Small” is a relative term. For our purposes, let’s limit the definition to fleets with 10 trucks or fewer. These lighter users of electric forklifts can get away with fewer automated functions in their battery handling equipment. Something like the BHS Walkie Transfer Carriage (WTC) will keep costs low while also providing safe and efficient battery change-outs.

    Many light-duty applications overlook the importance of spare batteries. That’s a costly mistake. Every time you charge a battery that hasn’t been fully expended, you limit the battery’s operational life unnecessarily. Keep one or even two extra batteries per lift truck, no matter how few units you run.

  • Cold-storage Warehouses.

    The hazards of operating lift trucks in freezing temperatures are well-known. While cold-storage warehouses usually choose electric lift trucks to eliminate emissions, battery charges can decline by 20 to 50 percent in the cold. Even worse, moving the truck from cold to warm temperatures can create condensation in the delicate electrical systems.

    One solution is to bring batteries to the trucks rather than vice-versa. Portable solutions like the Automatic Transfer Carriage (ATC) make this possible. A Dual Transfer Carriage (DTC) is even better for on-the-spot change-outs. With three battery compartments, it can complete two battery changes on a single trip.

  • Single-forklift Operations.

    Manufacturers, retailers, and other industrial applications with modest material handling needs might get by with only one or two lift trucks. These users won’t have the space or the budget to invest on the most comprehensive battery handling systems. Instead, a single Battery Transfer Carriage is enough to improve safety during all battery handling tasks, while enabling faster change-outs every time. These systems are available in every combination of manual and powered functionality to match every facility’s unique needs.

  • Fleets with Over 100 Lift Trucks.

    Even the largest forklift fleets stand to benefit from battery carriages. Like all industrial equipment, Operator Aboard Battery Extractor Systems require occasional planned maintenance. Plus, during high-volume seasons, an additional battery changer can keep your fleet running at maximum efficiency. The Mobile Battery Extractor (MBE) is a pallet-truck-mounted changer that’s recommended for up to 50 battery changes per day.

Choosing the right equipment for your fleet is crucial to prevent the heavy costs of forklift abuse. According to trade publication Modern Material Handling, forklift abuse includes everything from operator-error to infrastructure problems, such as pitted floors and inadequate battery handling devices. Abuse contributes up to 30 percent of the total maintenance costs for forklift fleets, Modern Material Handling reports. Choosing battery changers that keep your fleet safely on their routes is an important step toward eliminating those unnecessary expenditures.

References:

Bond, Josh. “How lift truck fleet managers can improve efficiencies and reduce costs.” MMH. Peerless Media LLC, 1 May 2012. Web. 29 March 2016.

Cooke, James. “Survey: Forklift fleet management programs still a work in progress.” DCVelocity. Agile Business Media, LLC, 16 Aug. 2010. Web. 29 March 2016.

Rogers, Lorie. “Best practices for managing a cold storage warehouse.MMH. Peerless Media LLC, 1 Jan. 2012. Web. 29 March 2016.

Battery Changing Solutions For Existing Pallet Trucks

Most of the published advice on forklift battery management is aimed at larger fleets. But what about the small operation — the kind that only runs one or two forklifts?

Facilities with smaller forklift fleets — even down to a single truck — probably realize that an extensive forklift battery changing system doesn’t make sense for their bottom lines. After all, some users can go a couple of days without having to change out a battery. But even the single-truck facility needs an efficient means of swapping out batteries.

Instead of a full Operator Aboard Battery Extractor System, managers in lighter-duty applications opt for a pallet-truck-mounted solution, like the Automatic Transfer Carriage from BHS. Truck-mounted battery changers meet the needs of small fleets without busting the budget. This specialized battery handling equipment saves considerable time during changes, while reducing safety hazards.

Larger operations use battery transfer carriages, too. Even the biggest forklift fleets depend on at least one pallet-truck-mounted and/or lift-truck-mounted battery transfer carriage. The mobility of a truck-mounted carriage allows staff to efficiently respond to occasions when a battery needs changing outside the battery room, or during routine maintenance on the main system.

Five Ways to Transform A Pallet Truck Into a Battery Changer

BHS ATC Rear-entry fork pockets for pallet truck

Rear-entry fork pockets are designed for use with pallet trucks.

There are five general methods of securing battery handling devices to pallet trucks. Which type is best for your operation depends on your specific needs, starting with truck availability.

  1. The part-time pallet truck mount.

    If you can’t set aside a pallet truck just for battery changing, go with a transfer carriage that can you can load onto your lift only when you need it.

    BHS’ Automatic Transfer Carriage (ATC) easily attaches to and disconnects from a pallet truck. The ATC’s Fork Pocket/QDY/Tongue Kit option (ATC-FP-C-24/30, ATC-FP-C-36/42) provides an easy and flexible solution when your equipment does more than one duty. This option includes a welded tongue kit for enhanced stability and a SB quick disconnect for even more flexibility.

  2. The three-way part-time pallet truck mount.

    If you ever need to change a battery in a tight spot, choose a transfer carriage that allows for mounting from multiple positions.

    Side-entry Fork Pockets BHS ATC

    Side-entry fork pocket are designed for use with
    sit-down counterbalanced (SDCB) lift trucks.

    The ATC can mount to a pallet truck from three directions, which makes all the difference when you find yourself in a narrow aisle without much room to maneuver. The ATC’s Three-Way Fork Pocket/QDY (ATC-FP-3-24/30, ATC-FP-3-36/42) option integrates into pallet trucks and forklifts alike. Its rear-entry fork pockets are designed for the former, while the side-entry fork pockets are designed for use with SDCB (sit-down counter-balance) lift trucks.

  3. The three-way dedicated pallet truck mount.

    If an operation can dedicate a pallet truck to battery changing full-time, then it may choose to go with a more permanent connection to its full-time pallet truck host.

    The ATC’s Three-Way Fork Pocket (ATC-FP-3) makes a great back-up to Operator Aboard Battery Extractors when combined with the Remote Control (ATC-RMT) and Vacuum Extraction (ATC-VAC) features. But it’s also a good choice if your operation can dedicate a pallet truck to battery changing full-time. Rear-entry fork pockets can be used with a host truck when the bolt-on Tongue Kit is attached. If you decide later to update your battery room with a higher-capacity system, then you already have your emergency backup extractor.

  4. The bolt-on pallet truck mount.

    Even a full-time battery changing lift may occasionally be needed for other tasks. For this reason, many users choose a bolt-on mount, which can be removed with a minimum of hassle and without specialized equipment. The ATC’s Bolt-On Mounting (ATC-BLTON) option provides a great solution for that pallet truck that sometimes has to do double-duty.

  5. The permanent pallet truck mount.

    Operations that can dedicate a pallet truck to battery changing full-time may want to make the transformation permanent. A factory-welded connection ensures maximum stability. The ATC’s Permanent Mounting (ATC-MPJ) option ensures that your dedicated pallet truck mount will be solid and stable. Consult the factory for this option.

So whether you run just one forklift or rely on an extensive fleet, a battery transfer carriage is an important component of your overall battery handling solution. Without one, you may be exposed to downtime and diminished efficiency during maintenance on your first-line extractor. Whether your fleet is small or large, automatic transfer carriages ensure that your facility’s forklifts stay on the go whenever you need them.

References:

Bond, Josh. “Lift Truck Management tips: Power Options — The hunt for operational efficiencies.” Logisticsmgmt. Peerless Media LLC, 1 Jan. 2013. Web. 10 March 2016.

Faust, Brian. “Proper Care, Safety and Maintenance of Forklift Batteries.MHLNews. Penton, 21 Nov. 2014. Web. 10 March 2016.

Regulating Hydrogen in the Battery Room

hydrogen gas detector alarmThe most dangerous thing in your battery room isn’t sulfuric acid. It isn’t even forklift batteries themselves, despite their crushing weight. The truly hazardous byproduct of charging batteries is invisible, tasteless, and odorless. It is lighter than air. And even a relatively small volume of it can cause a serious explosion.

We’re talking, of courses, about hydrogen. Battery charging areas must include vigorous ventilation systems to keep hydrogen from accumulating. That’s the message we hear from the full alphabet soup of industrial regulatory agencies, from OSHA to the NFPA.

Forklift Battery Gassing: Estimating the Risks

Governmental safety regulators have a good reason to require ventilation for charging areas. Hydrogen reaches its “lower explosion level,” or LEL, at a concentration of only four percent. It doesn’t take much hydrogen to start a fire, and when you add oxygen, which speeds up the reaction, you’ve got a potentially disastrous mix.

To make matters worse, hydrogen is lighter than almost any other element. It obeys the old maxim that “everything that rises must converge” and tends to accumulate at a room’s highest point. The hydrogen from a room full of charging batteries can form explosive pockets pretty quickly.

Ventilation is the solution. But what sort of ventilation?

Ventilation systems are rated in terms of how long they take to completely exchange the air in a given room. In order to figure out how much air your battery room vents should move, check out this Ventilation Calculator. Keep in mind that the industry standard for safe hydrogen levels is only one percent.

Eliminating the Hydrogen Threat From Industrial Battery Rooms

battery room hydrogen gas deteectorBefore you can vent hydrogen, you have to know that it’s there — easier said than done with this invisible hazard. Hydrogen Gas Detectors (HGD) from BHS warn staff when hydrogen starts to build up, well before it reaches potentially dangerous levels.

Hydrogen Exhaust / Ventilation FanRobust ventilation systems also include fans to force old air out and bring new air in. In order to save energy and air-conditioning costs, though, you wouldn’t want to run your fans continuously. That’s why the BHS Hydrogen Exhaust Fan (HEF) can communicate with an HGD to flush the room’s air only until hydrogen levels drop down to below safe limits.

For the highest level of protection from hydrogen, consider the comprehensive Battery Room Ventilation System (BRVS), which combines these innovations with extensive ductwork and gas-collecting Ventilation Stands to pipe explosive gasses straight out of your facility.

Ventilation for Battery Rooms is the Only Solution

Industrial batteries can’t help but emit hydrogen and oxygen during a charge. There’s no escaping physics.

Battery electrolyte is a mixture of sulfuric acid and water. Water, of course, is made of hydrogen and oxygen. Excess current breaks down water molecules, releasing these two gasses. Unfortunately, charging forklift batteries always leads to some amount of gassing toward the end of the charge.

That’s why OSHA regulations include prohibitions against anything that could introduce a spark into a column of hydrogen, including lit cigarettes, metallic tools around uncovered batteries, and electric arcs.

Along with the National Fire Protection Agency, OSHA insists that every battery charging area be provided with “adequate ventilation.” And they’re absolutely right.

References:

Ducharme, Gerald N. “Ventilation for battery charging: a guide to designing a room ventilation system for commercial and industrial battery-charging operations.” Heating, Piping, Air Conditioning Feb. 1991: 43+. Business Insights: Essentials. Web. 26 Feb. 2016.

NFPA 70: National Electrical Code.NFPA. National Fire Protection Association, 2015. Web. 26 Feb. 2016.

Powered Industrial Trucks – 1910.178.OSHA. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, United States Department of Labor, n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.

Solving the Forklift Battery Room Power Puzzle

forklift battery room power puzzleA lot of disparate pieces go into an efficient battery charging area, especially when it comes to power distribution. Facilities should be free to add and remove chargers whenever they need to, without the expense and delay of bringing in electricians for every change.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could just plug in a forklift battery charger like a lamp? Simplifying charger installation creates a flexible, hassle-free battery room, and saves considerably on electrician’s fees — which brings us to our next point.

Managing the Forklift Battery Charging Budget

Let’s start with the most important piece of the battery room power puzzle: your budget. Hard-wiring a battery room is a huge job for a hired electrician, and that huge job will cost you. At the same time, you should never cut corners when it comes to electrical work.

Safety-and-budget-minded managers should consider products such as the BHS Charger Power Module (PP). The Charger Power Module does much of the “hard-wiring” work that a hired electrician would do. Moreover, the Charger Power Module provides flexibility and easy disconnection for servicing battery room equipment. Compared to a hard-wired setup, this greatly reduces service and maintenance costs.

Smart Wiring for Forklift Battery Chargers

charger power moduleThe other important piece of the battery room power puzzle is management of the wiring itself. Of course, it’s easier to manage your battery room wiring if there’s less of it. Cut down on exposed wiring to arrange equipment in a safer and more convenient way for the day-to-day use of your staff.

The Charger Power Module helps put this piece of the puzzle into place, too. The PP reduces the number of exposed cords and wires in the charging area. This frees-up floor space for foot traffic as well as for the general mobility of battery room staff — to say nothing of lift trucks themselves.

The BHS Charger Power Module also organizes wiring, making it much easier to manage. The PP allows for simple connections, includes matching cord plug ends to keep cabling organized, and mounts easily to charging stands.

Total Solutions for Battery Room Power

For an even more comprehensive solution for battery room wiring, consider implementing a BHS Electrical Distribution System (EDS). While the Charger Power Module makes adding and removing chargers as easy as plugging in your phone, the EDS powers an entire Operator Aboard Battery Extractor System — from the chargers to the extractor to maintenance equipment.

Products such as the BHS Charger Power Module (PP) and the EDS complement each other and create a neat, organized battery room environment. That cuts down on risk to your staff — we all know how easy it is to trip on a stray cable — as well as saving on equipment repair.

In traditional power distribution systems, managers had to keep electricians on speed-dial. With these simple but powerful solutions from BHS, battery room staff can make changes or conduct maintenance tasks on chargers whenever they want. With the puzzle complete, your battery room will make up one pretty — and efficient — picture.

References:

Kaletta, James. “Lift Trucks: Battery room safety tips.” MMH. Peerless Media LLC, 27 Oct. 2010. Web. 26 Feb. 2016.

Powered Industrial Trucks – 1910.178.OSHA. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, United States Department of Labor, n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2016.

Powered Industrial Trucks (Forklift).” OSHA. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, United States Department of Labor, n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2016.

Electrical Distribution for Forklift Battery Rooms

Every battery room has distinctive power requirements, but these can change as operations grow. Don’t just wire the charging areas for your current needs; plan ahead for future changes — or, even better, ongoing expansion.

Powering The Fleet’s Power Source

Power Distribution for Forklift Battery RoomsThink of the battery charging area as the power source for your entire forklift fleet. In a way, charging systems are simply efficient pathways for power to get from the grid into each and every lift truck. When you think about it like that, it’s easy to picture the volume of electricity you’ll need to plan for.

Of course, you don’t just need to power your chargers — you’ll also need to provide electricity for ventilation systems, battery handling equipment, and heating and cooling systems. Check the power requirements of each piece of equipment you’ll incorporate to make sure you have enough capacity to operate everything.

Since you’ll need significant voltage, it’s a good idea to locate battery charging areas as close to a main power feed as possible. The farther away your charging area is from a main power feed, the more costly it will be to supply with adequate power.

Eliminating Clutter in the Battery Room

Once you provide sufficient power for all equipment, your biggest day-to-day challenge becomes keeping your battery room neat, orderly, and capable of efficiently servicing your fleet. This can be a tougher challenge than it may seem. Battery charging rooms turn into a mess of cables and equipment all too easily. Design the space to provide ample room for your staff to quickly and safely access chargers and other equipment, without cables sprawled all over the place.

BHS’ Electrical Distribution System (EDS) provides a solution to the daily challenge of keeping battery charging areas tidy and efficient. The EDS provides flexible power distribution to all 480 V / 3 ph components in an Operator Aboard Battery Extractor System, including Battery Extractors, chargers, and Battery Wash Equipment.

Battery Charging Areas Grow And Change

You’ll also need to plan for future expansion or other changes to battery charging and maintenance equipment — without spilling out past your target footprint. Space is always at a premium in warehouses. Most operations will benefit from limiting the size of the charging room as much as possible, both today and as demand grows.

Plan for flexibility in your new battery room. An integrated electrical distribution system like the EDS provides a platform to address changing needs. Installation costs for the EDS are only about a third of a traditional system, and it continues to save money as you install new chargers.

The EDS is a stand mounted, high-density system, so it conserves space as much as possible. The system can be customized using track busway that can be tapped at any location with a simple turn-n-lock connection.

These systems also offer an optional charger shutdown system that connects easily and efficiently with the BHS Battery Room Ventilation System (BRVS) or with a Hydrogen Gas Detector (HGD). This charger shutdown system disables the chargers in the event of dangerously excessive hydrogen gas accumulation for optimal safety.

A thorough plan for power distribution will create day-to-day cost savings that provide a quick return on investment. Electricity is the lifeblood of your forklift fleet, and your battery room is the “heart” of your facility. Install a great electrical distribution system to keep that heart as healthy as it can be.

References:

NFPA 70: National Electrical Code.NFPA. National Fire Protection Association, 2015. Web. 26 Feb. 2016.

Powered Industrial Trucks (Forklift).” OSHA. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, United States Department of Labor, n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2016.

Using Electric Storage Batteries Safely.” HSE. Health and Safety Executive, Government of Great Britain, n.d. PDF. 26 Feb. 2016.

What to Consider When Setting Up a Forklift Battery Charging Station.FSPBusiness. Fleet Street Publications, 03 Dec. 2013. Web. 26 Feb. 2016.