OSHA Quick Guide to Electric Forklifts: Part 2

posted on: Tuesday March 15, 2016

More about what you need to know if you’re adding electric lift trucks to your warehouse or facility.

xtralargeIt is important to understand the OSHA requirements, guidelines, and recommendations to using forklifts. Many warehouses are opting for electric over internal combustion forklifts because of their benefits to the environment. These, too, have many guidelines to consider. In part one, we covered some basics about the batteries, battery charging areas, and battery maintenance. Here we will focus on another important topic:

Battery Charging and Changing Procedures

Under normal conditions, electric forklift batteries can operate for a full shift and should be charged overnight or during the next shift. You may routinely change the batteries rather than charge them in the vehicles.

Keep in mind that only trained personnel should charge and change these batteries. Training should include emergency procedures, like how to use eyewash stations and emergency showers, in case of acid splash.

A few hazards to consider:

  • Batteries are heavy
  • The sulfuric acid within the batteries is highly corrosive; it is possible that it could splash on personnel while servicing or changing batteries
  • Electric forklift batteries give off highly explosive hydrogen fumes toward the end of the battery charging process
  • Electrical short circuits caused by contact with battery cells can burn unprotected skin

For proper operation of your equipment, be sure to follow your recharger manufacturer’s recommendations for attaching and removing cables. The following are OSHA requirements:

  • Before changing or charging batteries, properly position trucks and apply brakes
  • Use a lifting beam, NOT a chain with two hooks, when lifting the battery
  • Only charge the batteries in the designated charging area
  • You MUST provide facilities for:
    • Flushing and neutralizing spilled electrolyte
    • Fire protection
    • Protecting charging apparatus from damage by trucks
    • Adequate ventilation for fume dispersal
  • Never pour water into acid when charging batteries. ONLY pour acid into water
  • Assure that all vent caps are functioning
  • Smoking is prohibited in the charging area
  • Prevent open flames, sparks, and electric arcs in the charging area
  • Keep all tools and metallic objects, including jewelry, away from the top of uncovered batteries
  • Personnel must wear personal protective equipment
  • You must provide facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes and body within the work area for immediate emergency use
  • Return the battery to the forklift with a lifting beam and secure it in place after charging

All of the above are requirements by OSHA; we will cover more recommendations and practices in part three. For the entire list of regulations, click here.

If you’re considering alternatives to forklifts altogether, a cart and electric powered tugger system is a safe substitute that can replace many tasks carried out by lift trucks. They increase productivity and do not have a complex OSHA guideline you need to follow to use them. Find out whether your facility will benefit from a power tug more than an electric forklift. Contact Load Mover, Inc. at 952-767-1720 or info@loadmoverinc.com.