Batteries are expensive, very expensive!
When I instruct forklift operator safety courses I highly recommend caring for the batteries.
Here are my recommendations:
- Batteries contain sulfuric acid (within the electrolyte), and should be handled with care.
- Water levels on a battery should be checked regularly.
- Always be sure the plates in the cells are just covered with water.
- Wear splash proof goggles, protective clothing and rubber gloves when handling electrolyte.
- A safety shower or sink and eye wash station should be near the charging area.
- If battery acid contacts the skin or gets in your eyes, flush the area immediately with cold water for 15 minutes and get medical help.
- Keep all sources of ignition away from battery charging area.
- Neutralize any spilled electrolyte with baking soda.
- Keep any dirt or cleaning solutions from getting into the cells.
- Keep metallic objects away from battery to prevent a possible short circuit.
- Do not break live circuits at the terminal of batteries.
- Check connectors, pitting or looseness can cause sparks or arcing.
CHARGING YOUR BATTERY:
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- HYDROGEN GAS is produced when batteries are being charged and is extremely flammable.
- Be sure your charging area is well ventilated.
- It is best to let the lift truck rest for an hour after charging. A freshly charged battery is hotter than normal and still produces hydrogen gas.
- Be sure the battery cover is open while charging in order to dissipate heat.
- Keep sparks, flames, cigarettes etc. away from charging area.
- Make sure the charger is the same voltage and amperage as your battery.
- Be sure the charger is turned OFF before connecting the battery to the charger. If not a spark may be created and could cause the battery to explode.
- Ensure the lift truck key switch is in the OFF position.
- The charger connector shall not be plugged into the truck connector under any circumstances.
- Do not overcharge; it will make no difference but it will shorten the life of the battery.
- Check water levels AFTER charging to avoid over watering and acid spills.
A hydrometer reading to check the specific gravity should be taken periodically; the higher the acid content reading the better.
This is typically checked by a qualified mechanic during a scheduled maintenance. Scheduled maintenance of the lift truck, by the way, is also a regulation.
Throughout my career, I am always amazed how some companies allow maintenance to lapse. Considering the repair costs and the potential for injury due to mechanical breakdown, I am surprised these companies are not more thorough in their due diligence.
Today there are all sorts of wonderful products available on the market that would alleviate these challenges – ie: low maintenance or maintenance free batteries; self-watering systems. Check with your forklift dealership or battery provider to the best possible solutions for you.