Batteries are one of the most efficient power sources available for forklifts. Handling and maintenance of the batteries is a fairly safe operation if handled correctly but the units do carry some hazards. Proper equipment such as battery handling systems, and well-defined safety procedures ensure your workers will be protected during charging and replacement tasks.
Battery Handling Systems
Forklift batteries are very heavy. Although an average worker can pick one up, battery handling systems ensure the worker is kept safe when changing out a forklift’s power cell. These units lift and move batteries out of the forklift and allow workers to transport them safely to the charging area. By keeping workers far from the batteries, these units limit exposure to corrosive acid, flammable gas and electric shock dangers.
Some battery handling systems hold a single layer of cells and are ideal for small fleets. Larger units have internal lifts to store batteries on multiple layers, maximizing storage in a small space. Other equipment takes care of washing acid off the outside of the batteries, minimizing worker exposure to corrosive materials.
Battery handling systems are only one component of an overall forklift power safety system. OSHA regulations as well as simple common sense dictate there must be other systems in place to minimize the chance of accident, and to treat workers in the unlikely event of injury.
Even when using materials handling equipment, workers should wear proper personal protective equipment. Eye protection, thick rubber gloves and corrosion-resistant aprons guard against any sudden acid splashes. An emergency eyewash station should be present in the charging area, and the path to the station must be kept clear of obstacles. Remember, a worker who needs an eyewash station is probably approaching blindly. Finally, the charging area needs to have adequate ventilation to prevent the buildup of explosive hydrogen gas.
Policies And Procedures
Technology is only as good as the people operating in it. Without clearly defined operational procedures and adequate training, workers will perform their jobs in an unsafe manner. Without safety instruction, employees will waste valuable time in an accident trying to decide what to do, and are likely to make the wrong choices.
Tasks such as power cell replacement should be laid out in writing, detailing each step. It is better to have too much instruction than too little. Be careful about assuming what “everyone” knows. Workers should be instructed in operating battery handling systems and safety equipment, and should be closely supervised during training so they don’t pick up bad habits. Managers need to emphasize in both word and deed that safety, not efficiency or profits or anything else, is the most important goal for the company.
Battery handling systems include both the equipment and the policies behind it. Comprehensive systems lower injury rates, creating a safer and happier working environment.