OSHA Quick Guide to Electric Forklifts: Part 3

Understand the dangers of battery acid and the steps to take should an employee come in contact with it.

XtremelargeIn parts one and two, we focused on the OSHA guidelines for electric forklift battery maintenance and charging. Electric forklifts are more energy efficient and leave less of a carbon footprint, making them attractive substitutes to the internal combustion forklifts. However, because of the dangers associated with the battery that powers the lift truck, there are numerous rules you need to follow. Having looked at how to take care of the battery itself, let’s review what makes the battery so dangerous:

Sulfuric Acid Splash

The corrosive nature of battery acid makes it extremely dangerous if it comes in contact with humans. Potential hazards include acid spills and splashes (especially to the eyes,) and corrosive burns.

Here is some of the personal protective equipment (PPE) you need to handle the batteries:

  • Chemical splash goggles or a full face shield with safety glasses that have side shields.
  • Acid-proof gloves – these are made of rubber or neoprene
  • Acid-resistant clothing or an apron made of rubber or neoprene
  • Acid-resistant safety shoes/boots

Remember that should a contact lens wearer get splashed in the eye, the lenses can actually hold acid in, making it difficult to flush the eye. Therefore, these employees should wear chemical splash goggles while changing batteries.

In The Event Of An Acid Splash

Depending on your facility’s procedures and the battery’s MSDS, exact emergency procedures can vary. However, they will likely include:

  • Remove safety glasses and/or acid-soaked clothing immediately and flush the eyes and/or acid-contacted skin with clean water for 15 minutes
  • If acid is swallowed, remove victim from battery area and provide fresh air
  • If conscious, victim should wash out mouth with large amounts of water and drink milk
  • Do not induce vomiting
  • For both conscious and unconscious victims, monitor breathing and condition – start CPR if necessary
  • In all cases, you should seek medical attention and report the incident to a supervisor

Anyone who works in close contact with the batteries should be thoroughly and regularly trained on safety procedures. Additionally, emergency procedures should be readily available in the battery area(s).

If you wish to reduce the risk and preparation that is associated with electric lift trucks by minimizing your dependency on them, you may benefit from a cart and tugger system for horizontal transportation. Load Mover Inc. has helped manufacturers and warehouse personnel find cost-efficient, practical solutions using power tugs and carts. These systems improve productivity and safety; contact us to see if this is a viable solution for you: 952-767-1720 or info@loadmoverinc.com.