The handling and proper use of lead-acid batteries is not hazardous provided appropriate facilities are available and reasonable care is taken.

Below we have listed potential hazards that may arise, the precautions to taken to minimise such hazards and the action to be taken in the event of an accident or emergency situation.

Sulphuric Acid (Electrolyte)

Batteries contain sulphuric acid, which may leak and may give off as gasses and/or a fine mist during charging. Battery acid is a poisonous and corrosive liquid which will cause burns and irritation to the skin and eyes and could burn clothing.

Precautions

  • Always handle lead acid batteries with care and keep upright.
  • Do not overfill batteries
  • Always charge in a well-ventilated area.
  • Always use eye protection and protective clothing where there is a risk from splashes.
  • Always keep away from children.

Skin Contact:

  • Immediately drench the affected area with clean water and remove any contaminated clothing. If any soreness or irritation persists, seek medical attention.

Eye Contact:

  • Speed of action is vital. Immediately wash out the eyes with clean water for at least 10 minutes and seek prompt medical attention.

Ingestion:

  • Do not induce vomiting but make the patient drink as much water or milk as possible and seek medical attention.

Spillages:

  • For small spillages, rinse thoroughly with plenty of water.

Electrical Energy

Electrical energy can be supplied form batteries and charging equipment. Burns may occur from the heating effect on tools and conductive objects in contact with live battery terminals or conductors. In addition, sparks and molten metal may be ejected and combustible materials ignited. It is possible to receive a severe electric shock from charging equipment and from a number of batteries connected in series.

Precautions:

  • Before using conductive tools on a battery, remove metallic personal adornments from the hands and wrists i.e. watches and rings. Before working on a vehicle electrical system, disconnect the battery where there is any risk of accidental short circuits. Always disconnect the earth terminal from a battery fist and connect last. Do not place tools or conductive objects on top of batteries.
  • Before using a battery charger, consult manufacturer’s literature. Remember ton switch the charger off before connecting or disconnecting a battery.

Burns:

  • Cool the area with cold water, apply a sterile dressing and seek medical attention.

Electric Shock:

  • Immediate attention is essential in cases of severe electric shock as the nerves controlling breathing and heart action may be affected.  A doctor should be called after attending to the casualty.
  • Make sure it is safe to approach. Break the contact if the casualty is not clear of a live conductor. Switch off the current, remove the plug or wrench the cable free. If this is not possible, stand on dry insulating material (wood, rubber etc) and try to push or pull the casualty clear or contact. Do not touch the casualty with bare hands. If necessary, give cardio pulmonary resuscitation.

Emission of Gases

Hydrogen and oxygen are emitted during charging and can be emitted at other times, particularly is a battery is moved or shaken. Therefore, always consider that gas is present in the immediate vicinity or at the top of the battery. An explosive atmosphere is created if the concentration of hydrogen in air exceeds 4%.

Precautions:

  • Always use eye protection where there may be any foreseeable risk.
  • Charge in a well ventilated area.
  • Avoid sources or ignition close to batteries.
  • Do not smoke
  • No naked flames
  • Always switch off current before making or breaking electrical connections.
  • Avoid sparks caused by accidental short circuits.

Weight

  • Batteries are generally heavy units to handle and correct lifting techniques must therefore be used.

Damaged Batteries

  • Battery plates consist of lead acid and its components but can only be exposed if a battery is broken open. In the unlikely event of this happening, any spillage should be well dampened, swept up and placed in a suitable acid resistant, labelled container prior to disposal.

Disposal

  • Batteries, battery cases, battery acid and lead components, must not be burned but must be disposed of in accordance with the appropriate legislation.