Changing Forklift Batteries

Changing the battery in a forklift may seem like a pretty straight forward task, but there are many hazards associated with it.

BEFORE you attempt to remove a battery:
  1. Make sure you do not have any jewelry on.
  2. Keep Tools & other metal objects away from the top of the battery. (VERY IMPORTANT) Keeping the cable connector & objects away will prevent an arc or explosion!
  3. WEAR OSHA approved PPE – Including: Face mask, rubber gloves, and a rubber chemical apron.

4 Hazards of Forklift Batteries 

  • Battery Acid—The solution in a battery is called an electrolyte, and it is corrosive. It will eat holes in your clothing, etch the concrete floor of your workplace, and damage your skin or eyes.
  • Hydrogen Gas—Batteries give off this flammable gas and if it is allowed to accumulate in a small or confined area, it is readily ignitable and can result in an explosion.
  • Electrical Shock—Most people have connected “jumper cables” to their car battery and have probably seen the sparks that jump from the battery lead to the cable when the cable is connected to the battery.
  • Heavy Batteries—Attempting to handle a battery without proper material handling equipment can result in a severe muscle strain

Top ten tips for Changing your Forklift Battery:

  1. Forklifts should be in a stationary position with the handbrake on and engine off before attempting to change the battery.
  2. Battery charging installations should occur in designated areas.
  3. The designated installation area should be a smoke free zone, with signs clearly indicating this.
  4. In order to keep this area safe, facilities should be provided for: flushing and neutralizing spilled electrolyte, fire protection, the protection of charging equipment and the adequate ventilation for dispersal of fumes from gassing batteries.
  5. A conveyor, overhead hoist or equivalent material handling equipment should be available for handling batteries.
  6. Vent captions should be checked to ensure they are fully functioning. The battery (or compartment) cover(s) should be open to dissipate heat.
  7. Provide a carboy tilter or siphon for handling electrolyte.
  8. Ensure that reinstalled batteries are properly positioned and secure in the forklift before operating the equipment.
  9. Precautions must be taken to prevent open flames, sparks or electric arcs in battery charging areas
  10. Tools and other metallic objects must never be left on top of uncovered batteries.