Hundreds of thousands of warehouses serve the United States with storage and logistics for the majority of goods that move through the country. Without enough safe and steadily operating warehouses, the supply chain could easily grind to a halt. While batteries help power forklifts, pallet jacks, and more inside the warehouse environment, they can also pose a fire hazard. Proper replacement when the batteries become worn reduces the risk. Yet this also leaves the warehouse crew with batteries to deal with at that point. Letting old batteries build up could cause more of a fire risk than continuing to use them as they age or show signs of wear. Even a small warehouse can rely on hundreds of batteries in different sizes and configurations to power equipment of all sizes. Find out why these batteries need professional recycling and not just informal disposal.
Multiple Battery Types
The average warehouse likely has a mix of different batteries they rely on rather than one unified type of power unit. Lithium-ion batteries need different handling and have unique risks compared to the lead-acid batteries that are commonly found on gas-powered forklifts and similar equipment. If your warehouse relies on a mix of both electric and gas-powered equipment still, you’ll definitely need an advanced battery recycling support team to ensure everything you send in is properly treated. Set up a system in which various types of batteries are sorted from each other and stored according to their specific needs. The small rechargeable packs used for barcode scanners will need to stay separate from large batteries used for forklifts and pallet jacks.
Risks of Lithium-Ion Forklift Batteries
Lithium-ion batteries are often advertised specifically to forklift owners and warehouse managers that are concerned about the risks of old-fashioned lead acid batteries. While it’s true that there are fewer risks when lithium is used to store a charge, there are still plenty of safe handling considerations. Lithium-ion batteries can become a fire hazard if they’re damaged, especially when fully charged. They shouldn’t be stored with more than 50% charge in them to keep this risk under control. They can also leak, despite having no water and fewer fluids in them than standard lead-acid batteries.
Risks of Lead Acid Batteries
Lead-acid batteries are used in older electric forklifts and all gas-powered models. When they’re used for the primary charge of the equipment, they’re particularly hazardous because they release fumes as they recharge. These batteries must be stored separately from lithium-ion batteries and in areas with good ventilation and no sparks. Leaks from these batteries are particularly hazardous because of the sulfuric acid inside. These batteries are being phased out of many warehouses across the country now, so they need extra care when handling to ensure there are no issues while they’re transported and processed for recycling.
Easy Collection Systems
With different batteries used for lifting equipment, product tracking systems, and employee safety devices, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach for the warehouse. You’ll need a comprehensive plan that designates separate areas for batteries based on their size, composition, and risk factors. Set up a collection area for batteries that have reached the end of their service lifespan so there’s no risk of confusing them for good units that just need recharging. Trying to charge a damaged or outdated battery could lead to explosive damage or worse. Make sure that batteries waiting for pickup for recycling are marked clearly and in their own collection system.
Safe Storage for Batteries
Aside from handling batteries ready for replacement with care, you’ll want to store those that are still good with safety in mind as well. Sprinkler protection is a common requirement to deal with the fire risk that comes from keeping charged lithium batteries stored in the same place. Even if you don’t have to add specific safety equipment to the warehouse to compensate for the risk, practices like routine visual inspections to look for issues are always a good idea.
Signs Warehouse Batteries Need Replacement
No matter the type or age of the battery, there are a few basic signs of damage. Watch out for the following signs that your warehouse batteries need to go to the recycling plant and receive timely replacements.
- White or dark-colored corrosion on the outside of the battery case
- Cracks or bulges in the casing of the battery
- Odors, especially the rotten egg smell of sulfur
- Lack of charging response
- Quick discharging despite being fully charged
- Negative results from a battery testing device
- Broken posts or connection points.
Worker Safety with Warehouse Batteries
Warehouse batteries and the devices they power pose some of the biggest risks to worker safety. Following OSHA regulations for battery handling is essential to keeping worker compensation claims under control. That includes recycling batteries when they reach the end of their lifespan, even if they seem to be performing within reasonable parameters. Putting off replacement until a battery is leaking fluid or overheating dangerously during charging puts your workers at risk for serious injury.
Finding Professional Battery Recycling Services
If batteries are disposed of in the usual trash pickup service used for the packaging and debris of the warehouse, there’s a good chance of leaking fluids. This can expose workers to sulfuric acid, heavy metals, and more. Professional battery recycling is the key to preventing fire and explosion risks during trash compaction as well. Even small batteries used for powering walkie-talkies or digital cameras can result in fires when crushed. Sort all batteries into a recycling container appropriate for their size and type to make sure that the waste stream of the warehouse is safe for workers to handle.
Turn to Battery Recyclers of America for the easiest way to handle all the batteries you need to dispose of from across the warehouse. Even advanced battery systems for power backup or critical operations can be dealt with through our expert services. Contact us today to schedule a discussion about your needs for warehouse battery recycling.