OSHA’s Rules on Safety Equipment in Battery Changing Areas
In our previous post, we discussed the OSHA standards that refer specifically to changing and charging batteries for powered industrial trucks: 29 CFR 1910.178(g).
While this code forms the core of the OSHA requirements for battery handling, safety regulations from other parts of the Occupational Safety and Health Standards for general industry also have an important place in your battery room.
Most of these regulations are concerned with safety equipment. The location of essential protective devices such as fire extinguishers, first aid stations, and eyewash stations are vital to worker safety, and in many cases, they are also regulated by law.
Of course, electric forklift batteries are extremely safe when properly implemented, particularly when an operation follows all relevant safety procedures and maintenance regimens. In the rare event of a battery handling accident, however, preparation is key. You can ensure that your battery room staff is equipped to respond to any emergency by complying with the following regulations:
- 29 CFR 1910.132 – Personal Protective Equipment.
- 29 CFR 1910.133 – Eye and face protection.
- 29 CFR 1910.151 – Medical services and first aid.
- 29 CFR 1910.157 – Portable fire extinguishers.
- 29 CFR 1910.305(j)(7) – Storage Batteries.
These regulations are applicable across all industries — except where explicitly overridden by an industry-specific standard.
If that last sentence seems confusing, remember that the best practice for ensuring OSHA compliance is to contact your local OSHA office or consult an attorney specializing in the field. This guide is not intended as a substitute for expert advice or legal counsel.
OSHA Safety Equipment Compliance for Battery Charging Areas
A priority in all battery handling areas is to protect workers from electrolyte spills and splashes. Several OSHA regulations are relevant to this common danger.
- 29 CFR 1910.132(a): Personal Protective Equipment. This general requirement instructs employers to provide personal protective equipment for any employees subjected to hazards “encountered in a manner capable of causing injury or impairment.” A later regulation, 1910.132(h)(1), specifies that the employer should provide this safety equipment “at no cost to employees.”
That means that employers foot the bill, but the cost is well worth the expenditure: quality protective clothing is an affordable way to prevent costly injuries. When designing an OSHA-compliant battery room, personal protective equipment is a great place to start.
What sort of protective equipment is required in battery charging applications? The regulation states that equipment must protect “eyes, face, head, and extremities,” and include “protective clothing.”
When working with lead-acid batteries, personal protective equipment should probably include acid-resistant gloves, boots, goggles, face shields and aprons. The BHS Personal Protective Kit provides a comprehensive collection of protective clothing suitable for compliance with this important OSHA standard.
- 29 CFR 1910.133: Eye and Face Protection. This standard expands on the personal protective equipment required to protect the eyes and face. There is a good reason why OSHA set aside a whole standard just to address eye safety.
Eye injuries are among the most devastating — and costly — workplace accidents that can befall a worker. There are over 2,000 eye injuries at workplaces in the United States, according to Prevent Blindness America. Ten percent of these injuries cause missed work days, and 10-20 percent result in temporary or permanent vision loss.
Luckily, chemical splash goggles and an acid-resistant face shield can provide adequate protection. These components also comply with OSHA standard 1910.133(a)(1), which requires employers to make sure staff use “appropriate eye or face protection” when exposed to hazards, including “acids or caustic liquids” — such as battery electrolyte.
- 29 CFR 1910.151: Eyewash Stations. The personal costs of occupational eye injuries are immeasurable, but the financial impact is estimated at $300 million dollars per year according to EHSToday.
In addition to providing protective equipment, facilities must provide wash stations (such as the BHS Shower Eye Wash) “where the eyes or body. . . may be exposed to injurious corrosive materials,” according to OSHA 1910.151(c). These wash stations should be situated such that they are available “for immediate emergency use.”
How close is “immediate,” exactly? This OSHA regulation does not specify a distance from batteries, but many facility managers refer to ANSI Z358.1-229. This regulation from the American National Standards Institute requires an eyewash station that takes fewer than 10 seconds to reach from any site of potential contact with corrosive materials.
- 29 CFR 1910.157: Portable Fire Extinguishers. As part of the subsection of the OSHA code that covers fire protection, OSHA 1910.157(c)(1) requires employers to place fire extinguishers where they are “readily accessible to employees without subjecting the employees to possible injury.”
Fire extinguishers that are rated for fires type A, B, and C — such as the BHS Fire Extinguisher & Cabinet — are best for battery rooms, as they are suitable to use with nearly any fuel source.
- 29 CFR 1910.305(j)(7): Storage Battery Ventilation. Because batteries release hydrogen gas, which can be dangerous when it accumulates too much, adequate ventilation is required for all battery charging areas.
OSHA addresses this subject in subpart S, which concerns electrical systems. Standard 1910.305(j)(7) mandates “provisions. . . for sufficient diffusion and ventilation of gases from storage batteries.”
A comprehensive approach such as the BHS Battery Room Ventilation System ensures that hydrogen never builds to dangerous levels — and keeps your facility compliant with this crucial OSHA regulation.
Complying With OSHA for General Industry
Along with the guidelines we discussed in the previous post concerning 29 CFR 1910.178(g), these are the standards for general industry that are most important in setting up a safe, compliant battery room.
In the next and final entry in this series on OSHA regulation in the battery room, we will consider OSHA regulations for battery handling in the construction industry. Even warehouse managers can benefit from implementing some of the detailed battery handling regulations found in OSHA 1926.441, which covers batteries and battery charging from a slightly different angle than we have seen so far in this series.
Eckhardt, Bob. “Sorting Out Battery Handling Regulations.”Concrete Products 103.7 (2000): 96. Business Source Premier. Web. 19 May 2015.
Piotti, Kelly. “Forget Me Not: Place Eyewashes In These Easily Forgotten Locations.” EHS Today 6.3 (2013): 29. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 19 May 2015.