Comparing Battery Handling Regulations for General Industry and Construction
In the previous two posts, we provided a basic introduction to OSHA regulations for battery rooms in general industries. This post will examine OSHA standard 1926.441, which addresses batteries and battery charging in the construction industry.
The relationship between the battery handling regulations in standards 1910 and 1926 is complex. In some places the two standards overlap, and in others they address completely different issues. Most of the standards from OSHA 1910.178(g) also apply to battery handling in the construction industry, but the reverse is not necessarily true for all applications.
Because the two sets of regulations interact in unique ways in different applications, only an OSHA compliance officer or a qualified attorney can determine which regulations are applicable to your facility. For electric lift trucks in the construction industry, or for warehouse managers who wish to follow the best practices from all industries, this guideline provides an introduction to OSHA compliance in battery handling tasks designed for the construction industry.
OSHA Standards for Battery Room Floors, Racks, and Trays
The construction standards provide more detail on battery room infrastructure than the standards for general industry. A few regulations offer insight into the safest way to set up the floor in the battery charging area, while others describe the ideal battery racks and trays. When creating or updating your battery room, consider the following items:
The first two items within standard 1926.441 address the hydrogen gas accumulation that occurs when battery charging areas are not properly ventilated. Standard 1926.441(a)(1) tells us to keep unsealed industrial batteries in spaces with adequate ventilation, and stipulates that “fumes, gases, or electrolyte spray” be contained within the designated area.
The next regulation, 1926.441(a)(2), explains the importance of the required ventilation: ventilation is intended to “prevent the accumulation of an explosive mixture.” The BHS Battery Room Ventilation System provides reliable dispersal of the hydrogen produced by charging forklift batteries, and can help your facility comply with this regulation.
Note that these two regulations overlap with standard 1910.305(j)(7), which makes similar demands on general industry applications.
Strong, Acid-Resistant Battery Racks and Trays.
This is an area not addressed in the general industry standards, although it is vital to a safe and durable battery room. According to 29 CFR 1926.441(a)(3), battery stands and trays must be “substantial” and acid-resistant.
BHS battery and charger stands meet these requirements with a powder-coated, heavy-duty steel construction and spark-proof, poly-sleeved rollers. BHS drip pans are also resistant to electrolyte, helping to comply with this regulation.
In another battery room specification not covered by the general industry standards, 29 CFR 1926.441(a)(4) tells us how to protect floors from electrolyte spills.
This regulation gives us two options: either integrate acid-resistant floors (such as the BHS battery room floors) or else provide protection from “acid accumulations.” While the code does not specify the method, a combination of electrolyte-resistant flooring and drip pans covers both bases nicely. In addition, acid absorbent and neutralizing pillows included in the drip pans provide a safe and efficient disposal process.
This is where the construction standards begin to overlap with the general industry codes. Three regulations — 1926.441(a)(5), 1926.441(a)(6), and 1926.441(a)(7) — specify protective equipment that should be included in or near battery charging areas.
The safety features mandated by OSHA include:
- Personal protective equipment, including “face shields, aprons, and rubber gloves” for all staff engaged in battery handling tasks.
- Wash stations posted “within 25 feet of battery handling areas.”
- Spill kits and “fire protection.” The spill kit must be equipped for “flushing and neutralizing” battery spills, as BHS Battery Spill Kits are designed to do.
Battery Charging Practices.
Echoing regulation 1910.178(g)(1), 29 CFR 1926.441(b)(1) states that battery chargers should be clustered in designated areas. This means that charging batteries outside of the area set aside for that task is prohibited.
Finally, some measures should be taken to prevent industrial trucks from driving into chargers, as well, according to 29 CFR 1926.441(b)(2). Structural barriers such as rails or bollards can help protect charging equipment and maintain compliance with this regulation.
Complying With OSHA Standards for Safety in the Battery Room
Industry insiders tend to cite both sets of standards when discussing safety regulations for battery handling, no matter what industry is involved. The OSHA standards we discussed in this four-part series are more than bureaucratic red tape — they also outline best practices for safety in battery handling applications.
For this reason, every facility has a strong incentive to comply with all regulations fully, and to maintain that compliance. By following all of these standards, you can ensure a safe, productive battery room to keep your lift truck fleet running smoothly.
Eckhardt, Bob. “Sorting Out Battery Handling Regulations.”Concrete Products 103.7 (2000): 96. Business Source Premier. Web. 19 May 2015.