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Recharging electric forklift truck batteries has a number of significant hazards which can, if not suitably controlled increase the risk of fire, explosion, injury or even death.
Battery charging often takes place at night while the building is empty which means faults in charging equipment may not be detected until there is a fire, and by then the damage has been done.  In addition to fire risks you also need to consider other health and safety hazards for your employee’s protection, including electrocution and the handling of battery acid. 
 
Here are some of the key actions you should look at to reduce and manage forklift truck battery charging risks.
Make sure your health and safety risk assessments:
  • are up to date, suitable, sufficient and completed by a competent person.
  • include all risks, such as fire, explosion, acid burns, acid fum inhalation, maunal handling, electrocution and impact by lift trucks or other vehicles.
  • consider specific obligations under health and safety regulations including:
    1. The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR) and Dangerous Substances (Notification and Marking of Sites) Regulations (NAMOS) for areas where an explosive atmosphere may be present
    2. The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH), for battery acid
    3. The Electricity at Work Regulations for the risks from electrical equipment.
  • Include charging units in a documented system for periodic inspection, testing and maintenance schedule.
  • Make sure the fixed electrical installation supplying the charging areas is inspected and tested periodically by a competent electrical contractor.
  • Only use and charge the battery according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Ensure all employees are aware of the all the hazards identified, and have been trained and are provided with all the necessary equipment to work safely.
  • Provide safe systems of work (SSOW) documentation for all dangerous activities. Make sure you base the SSOW on your obligations under relevant regulations and applicable HSE guidance.
  • Make sure you record all the training you run and ask employees to sign to acknowledge they attended.
  • Review your first aid assessment to make sure it covers all risks identified.
  • Review your fire risk assessment to make sure the area is suitable for battery charging and that, it is stored in an enclosure that has a fire resistance to at least 120 minutes as a minimum, prefeably a detached outbuilding.
  • Ventilation of the charging area needs to be enough to keep hydrogen below its lower explosive level (LEL). Where there is a significant risk or hydrogen gas, suitable gas detectors should be considered.
  • Provide and maintain suitable fire extinguishers and train staff in correct use of them.
  • Make sure battery charging areas are protected by guard rails and floor markings, providing 2 metres of clearance.
  • Keep battery charging area free of combustibles and display suitable signage.
Find information on regulations that you and your business may need to comply with.
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