Many businesses store batteries for a variety of reasons. Whether used to power cars, computers, or microwaves, batteries require a certain level of precaution to be stored safely. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) battery storage requirements provide specific guidelines that businesses must follow to ensure the safety of their workers and customers.
Batteries should be kept in a battery room, away from heavy traffic areas. If this is impractical, or if only a few batteries are kept on the premises, they should be kept in a closet or behind some kind of barrier that would prevent people from accidentally coming into contact with them. The barrier should be posted with “Explosion Hazard” and “No Smoking” signs. Seismic protection should be provided in earthquake-prone areas, and electrical outlets and light switches should be located outside of the room. Metal battery racks should be grounded, and floors should be acid-resistant.
The room or closet where batteries are kept should be well-ventilated at all times. Batteries continuously give off a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen gas, and concentration of these fumes can be hazardous to workers’ health and cause a combustion hazard. The exact amount of ventilation needed depends upon the size, type, and quantity of batteries stored. The Material Safety Data Sheet for the particular battery will provide recommended ventilation levels.
Batteries should be kept clean and dry at all times. Moisture causes the cells to corrode, which can result in leakage. Accumulation of dust, dirt, and debris can also be corrosive, and is a fire hazard as well.
Never allow the battery storage area to exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. High ambient heat can cause some types of batteries to rupture and spill electrolyte solution, and certain types of batteries present a combustion hazard when off-gassing into a high-heat area.
All safety equipment should be easily accessible, including goggles, gloves, face shields, and aprons. An operational eye wash and body wash station should be available, and a class C fire extinguisher should be kept nearby. Clean rags and a bottle of electrolyte-neutralizing solution should be kept in the room in case of leaks and spills.
Employees should perform visual safety inspections of stored batteries at least monthly. The batteries should be checked for corrosion, cracks, and leaks, and should be wiped down to prevent dust accumulation. The storage area’s temperature should be checked, and all ventilation systems should be tested to ensure functionality. The employee should verify the availability of all safety equipment and should check the fire extinguisher to make sure it has been inspected as scheduled. If any part of the inspection is not right, appropriate and immediate action should be taken to rectify the issue.
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