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.
Although 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.
“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.