OSHA Quick Guide to Electric Forklifts: Part 1

posted on: Tuesday March 15, 2016

If you’re considering electric forklifts for your warehouse or facility, know what your responsibilities are.

08-abouta_1Electric-powered forklifts are popular alternatives to internal combustion forklifts in warehouses. They are quiet and non-polluting, but they do still pose significant hazards. The OSHA guidelines on both kinds of forklifts are lengthy, but valuable. If you’re considering electric forklifts in your facility, it is helpful to know what kinds of requirements, recommendations, and potential hazards OSHA identifies. Here is the first quick guide to better understand your responsibilities.

Batteries replace the fuel , producing zero emissions and eliminating carbon monoxide toxins. The batteries themselves, however, are large lead-acid batteries that need to be changed routinely. A few things to know about the batteries:

  • You must designate an area specific to the purpose of battery charging
  • The forklift should be charged before anyone uses it
  • Heavy loads drain the battery more quickly

In your battery charging area, you need to abide by the following:

  • You must post warning signs
  • No smoking allowed
  • You must provide adequate fire protection
  • An ample and readily-available water supply must be available for flushing and neutralizing spilled electrolyte
  • Each charging station must have an eyewash station capable of providing a 15-minute flow. For large installations, you also need a drench shower
  • A phone or other means of communicating must be present in case of emergency
  • You must have adequate ventilation, as hydrogen gas can build up during charging
  • Provide soda ash or other neutralization materials
  • A fire extinguisher must be present – a dry chemical, CO2, or foam
  • You must have means to protect the charging apparatus from potential damage from trucks

To increase the life of your batteries and help protect employees, a battery maintenance program should be implemented.

These batteries can remain in service for 2,000 charge/discharge cycles (typically the equivalent of as many work shifts). Battery failure can cause mechanical breakdowns, leading to accidents. OSHA recommends the following:

  • Charge batteries at the end of a shift. Don’t keep using them even if they continue to deliver power
  • Never exceed the manufacturer’s recommended service hours
  • Don’t over or under charge the batteries
  • If you discharge batteries beyond the manufacturer’s discharge level, it can permanently damage the battery and significantly shorten it’s life
  • Watch for the warning signs that the battery is low, like slow starting, dim headlights, and the ammeter indicating discharge at a high rate.

In part two, we will continue to summarize important requirements and recommendations set forth by OSHA. These quick guides will help you better understand your responsibilities in owning and operating electric forklifts.

For forklift alternatives that are safer and require less rigorous compliance, ask Load Mover Inc. if an electric powered tug can replace your lift truck. We have helped numerous manufacturers and warehouse personnel find safe, efficient, and practical substitutes for forklifts. Call 952-767-1720 or email info@loadmoverinc.com.