There are a couple of basic regulatory safety issues to keep in mind when you outfit your battery room. OSHA regulations require a “conveyor, overhead hoist, or equivalent material handling equipment” to assist staff in changing forklift batteries. The reasoning is plain: Forklift batteries are heavy. Without the proper mechanical assistance, staff members are at a high risk of workplace injury when changing batteries out.
Complying With OSHA’s Material Handling Standard for the Battery Room
When OSHA wrote their key battery handling regulation, they probably had a gantry crane in mind. These standards were written when more lift trucks required vertical extraction, rather than the safer side-pull compartments featured in many newer designs.
If you use a gantry for changing-out batteries, keep in mind that you’ll be using it a lot and that many lift truck batteries weigh as much as a few tons. That’s why BHS offers both powered and non-powered Gantry Cranes with quality components and powder-coated steel construction. Capacities range from 4,000 – 6,000 pounds.
Meeting Federal Battery Handling Standards for Side-Extraction Lift Trucks
For lift trucks with lateral-release battery compartments, many operations have moved to Automatic Transfer Carriages (ATC) or Operator Aboard Battery Extractors (BE) in order to comply with OSHA’s “material handling equipment” regulation. These types of battery changers offer added efficiency advantages in addition to their compliance with material handling standards.
They also help businesses meet another crucial OSHA regulation, 29 CFR 1910.178(g)(5), which insists that “reinstalled batteries shall be properly positioned and secured in the truck.” Hydraulic-powered extraction arms easily maneuver forklift batteries into their proper position in the battery compartment, reducing the chances of operator error in this vital daily task.
Facilities that change around 20 batteries per day can take advantage of the efficiency benefits of Automatic Transfer Carriages. For safety’s sake, the ATC features dashboard sides that enclose moving parts, a battery containment bar to secure the battery during transport, and rubber bumpers for protection during battery change-out.
Safety Features Cover the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act
In addition to regulations written specifically for battery rooms, OSHA requires businesses to comply with an umbrella law that covers unspecified safety risks. The General Duty Clause of the OSH Act requires employers to remove “recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to…employees.”
The wording is purposefully vague, which turns out to be an advantage for workplace safety. When a series of legislative acrobatics forbade OSHA to issue rules on ergonomic hazards, the General Duty Clause still allowed the agency to prosecute companies that subject their employees to serious, ongoing risks of lower back pain and other musculoskeletal injuries.
Even the busiest battery rooms can stay on the right side of the General Duty Clause, avoiding both ergonomic dangers and other, lesser-known safety hazards. Operator Aboard Battery Extractors from BHS have fuse protection built into their lift systems, which prevents vertical drops in the event a hose is damaged. Other safety features to look for are three-point switches that will require proper gate closure, and floor-drive cutout systems that prevent the extractor from moving when the extractor arm is extended outside of the carriage.
Battery handling equipment from BHS covers everything federal regulators could throw at you. The safety of the equipment itself is protected, too. Each changer has a heavy-duty structure with a powder-coated epoxy finish that resists acid, scratches and other common sources of damage that can weaken its structural integrity. With the right equipment, there’s no need to fear a visit from the OSHA inspector.
“Batteries and battery charging – 1926.441.” OSHA. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, United States Department of Labor, n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.
“OSH Act of 1970, Sec. 5. Duties.” OSHA. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, United States Department of Labor, n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.
“Powered industrial trucks – 1910.178.” OSHA. Occupational Safety & Health Administration,
United States Department of Labor, n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.