Safety Items & PPEs You Must Have When Charging Forklift BatteryIn the years we’ve been in the industry, we’ve seen a lot of things, and we know wearing of PPEs is one of the common practices neglected or (purposely) omitted by workers in the steps of charging forklift batteries because they’re tempted not to wear so during busy schedules to save time.

Charging forklift batteries must be given due importance with respect to safety, as this is a risky process. The most common hazard associated with doing this task is the acid coming into contact with the skin or entering the eye causing severe injury.

The charging station is a dangerous place to be, that’s why safety items must be provided and proper PPEs must be worn by the workers to protect them when doing this job.

It has been specified by OSHA that the provision of these safety items and PPEs is the sole responsibility of the company. It shall be given at no cost. In addition to this, the employer’s role is to train the operators in the proper use and maintenance of these PPEs.

But what are actually the complete set of safety items that must be in the charging station? Do you have those in your facility?

  • Acid-resistant face shield or goggles to protect the worker’s face
  • Face mask to avoid inhalation of hydrogen fumes
  • Acid-resistant apron to protect the worker’s extremities from acid splashes
  • Rubberized or neoprene gloves
  • Hazmat boots

In addition to the five basic PPEs that must be worn by workers during battery charging, these items are also recommended to be in place in case of emergency:

  • Eyewash station so that the worker can immediately wash when the acid comes into contact with his body
  • Acid neutralizing solution (baking soda is OK, but the solution is better)
  • Drinkable water or milk (in the event the battery water is ingested, when this happens, call a doctor immediately as this an emergency)
  • Fire extinguisher for use inside the charging facility as standby firefighting equipment
  • No smoking and other safety signs

We strongly advocate everyone that the practice of wearing PPEs when charging forklift batteries must be included in the steps or process in doing such a task. The objective is simple – to reduce worker exposure to hazard.

Acid-resistant Face Shield or Goggles

Face shields offer maximum protection of the eyes and exposed skin on the part of the face from chemical spray such as sulfuric acid. Never ever do the charging without this PPE on.

Most of the face shields available in the market nowadays come with ordinary visors of standard quality. What that does mean that ordinary ones would cloud up when splash with acids. What ideal for the job of battery charging is the face shields with PETG and Acetate visors to offer the best protection and clear visibility.

If you are going to ask me, I'll choose the type with headgear with browguard built into it, not only it gives protection from forehead injury but also cover the part of the head that could be exposed during chemical splash.

Here are the ANSI-compliant face shields you can buy from Amazon:

 

 

Face Masks

While others don’t use a face mask when charging the battery, it is still recommended for the operator to use a face mask to avoid inhalation of accumulated gases in the charging station. To minimize at least the inhalation of gas, operators must wear a face mask during battery charging.

If you smell rotten eggs, then that is a sign that there is hydrogen sulfide, a gas that forms when overcharging the batteries. We all know that this is a dangerous gas. Leave the charging area, report the incidence to the superior so that the station can be tested to confirm if that gas is present.

Face masks are cheap, and here are what you can buy:

 

 

Acid-resistant Apron

Acid-resistant aprons are designed to provide protection against the risk of spraying or splashing chemicals such as sulfuric acid in the battery. It should be worn when charging forklift batteries, any tears found in the apron should prompt for its replacement.

If someone is going to buy an apron, the best-recommended type is the one with long sleeves so that the worker's arms are also protected not only his extremities from acid splash when doing the task of battery charging. While those brands made of neoprene is ideal for doing the job.

Choose the design that extends to the knees and covers the torso and upper legs to fully protect workers from fluid splash.

Here are the acid-resistant aprons you can purchase:

 

 

Neoprene or Rubberized Gloves

It is ideal that the gloves are strong to withstand as charging the battery is a manual task. Having a good pair of at least 0.4mm thick of neoprene gloves will surely give not only comfort but also protection.

As the worker is doing the charging, his hand may come into contact or accidentally touch a surface contaminated with the acid battery, a good pair of neoprene gloves will surely give extra protection.

Another type of gloves suitable for handling such a task is the rubberized ones. What I also like about the rubberized gloves are that you can touch the battery terminal since your hands are insulated. But we don’t recommend doing anything with the terminals without the proper tools. Another safety point we would like stress out here is, although rubberized gloves reduce the risk of shorting the battery, we still recommend removing any ring or jewellery on your hand even if you’re using gloves when working with forklift battery.

Consider buying these neoprene and rubberized gloves on Amazon:

 

 

Consider Replacing Worn Out PPEs (It Will Come to Point It Will Worn Out)

While the PPEs use by workers in the charging station don’t actually expire, all of these gears must be kept in good condition. Hence, any worn-out items and protective gear must immediately be replaced.

We can't tell when PPEs are going to be replaced but a good tell-tale sign is, for example, if there any rips on the neoprene gloves that will make this PPE useless when handling forklift batteries. A good rule of thumb is that PPEs must be regularly checked and inspected by a qualified personnel and immediately be replaced if any damages or faults are found.

In case PPEs don't need to be replaced yet, it is good practice to have them available on stock so that when there's an urgent circumstance such as untimely equipment failure, the defective one can easily be replaced.

Provision of PPEs should not set aside because, at the end of the day, both the employer and their employees will benefit from wearing of PPEs.

Aside from Wearing PPEs, How to Ensure Operators’ Safety?

  • Be sure to align the battery charging safety guidelines of the company to the current OSHA regulation or it must be in the same or above the level of the equipment manufacturer’s recommendation.

  • A well-ventilated area dedicated for the sole purpose of battery charging. The construction of the charging area must meet the design requirements of ANSI/ISEA Z358.1 (American National Standard for Emergency Eyewash and Shower Equipment). Good ventilation so that flammable oxygen and hydrogen gasses can escape.

  • Provision of training to all workers who handle forklift batteries. The main purpose of the training is to communicate to workers the proper handling, storage, and use of the batteries since they’re the ones in close contact. Manual handling training can also be included so that anyone can be educated in the proper lifting of heavy objects. While fire extinguisher training can come in handy.

Battery Charging Station Must-Have Safety Signs as Well

Safety signs in the battery charging station should also be in place to alert workers and people around of the potential hazards in entering the area. The safety signs should be attention-grabbing and placed in key locations to maximize visibility.

Here are the safety signs that must be in place in the charging station:

  • Danger: Battery Charging Area
  •  Battery Charging Area: Strictly No smoking
  • Caution: Risk of Eye Injury
  • Face and Hand Protection Must Be Worn
  • Disconnect Battery Charger
  • Caution: Stay Back 10 Feet Away of Battery Charger
  • Caution: Check Battery Acid Before Connecting Battery Charger
  • Proper PPE Required When Handling Batteries or Adding Water

If you have a heavy-duty printer, you can produce these safety signs in no time. We used to print out in tabloid (ledger)-size, which is about 11x17 inches, and laminate it to make printout rigid.

However, those signs can also be purchased from Amazon, see below:

 

 

To Make a Conclusion

We all know how essential to have these safety items and PEEs in the battery charging facility, but employers are warned not to rely the safety on this aspect alone. Frequent operator training and good communication are important to address hazards in the workplace.

Image source: @ECDC